Various industries such as agri-harvesting, food handling sectors and e-commerce handle a wide range of products every day. These products come in a diverse range of shapes, sizes and packaging materials, and are mostly still handled by humans as there is no one gripping solution in the market that is able to accommodate different products. In order to handle different products, multiple grippers and tool changers are required and this results in high operating costs.
This technology offer aims to resolve the limitations of current commercial grippers by developing universal soft robotic gripping solutions. Grippers with multiple gripping modes and adjustable grip poses have been developed. These features can be auto adjusted by the in-house object detection model and control system based on the shapes and sizes of the individual items being gripped. Fabricated with 3D printing technologies, the gripper and finger designs can be easily customized and optimized for specific gripping requirements.
Currently, 2 types of reconfigurable grippers - one for food-safe manipulation, and another one for Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) picking - have been developed. The food-safe gripper can be used to handle most of the food items in e.g., central kitchens, food assembling lines and agriculture farms. It has been tested to grip at least 50 different types of food items with various shapes and sizes safely and stably, such as uncooked tofu, pudding, cake, strawberry, broccoli, sausage, raw egg, and assorted vegetables, with a success rate of 93%. The FMCG gripper can be used for picking and sorting FMCG products, especially in the e-commerce sector where every online order consists of different types of products. The gripper has been tested to pick at least 30 different types of products with various shapes, sizes and types of packaging successfully, such as pouched products (e.g., a bag of coffee powder), tubed products (e.g. toothpaste), boxed products (e.g. a box of cereal), and bottled products (e.g. a bottle of shampoo). It can also handle products of different sizes, from as small as a piece of chocolate ball, to as big as a box of 500 g cereal.
The grippers can be further developed and customized based on the applications and requirements. The customized gripping solutions can also be in various sectors such as pill picking and packing packaged foods into boxes or plastic bags for export, etc.
Benchmarking tests have been conducted to compare the grippers with other commercially available grippers. The results showed that the universal grippers can provide a 22% increase in gripping efficiency. Moreover, compared to using multiple grippers and tool changers to handle different products, the one-fits-all grippers can help users to save the operating cost by up to 36%. Reconfigurable grippers also provide 100% gripping adaptability with its universal gripping function, which is a feature absent in most of commercially available grippers.
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