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These Robotic Grippers Have A Soft Touch

Did a robot pack your groceries? The day may not be far off when you’ll be able to answer that question with a yes – or maybe you’d rather just say, “affirmative.” That’s one of the goals engineers at Cambridge, Massachusetts based Soft Robotics seek to achieve using the soft robotic actuators they’ve developed to serve the warehouse logistics and food handling industries.

Soft Robotics Grippers are designed to be adaptable, inexpensive and easy to use. Image credit: Soft Robotics
Soft Robotics Grippers are designed to be adaptable, inexpensive and easy to use.

At the Pack Expo International trade show November 6-9, 2016 in Chicago, Soft Robotics will demonstrate its adaptive gripping technology tackling the challenge of picking apples out of a bin.

E-Commerce Companies Face Packing Challenges

However, the range of applications for the soft grippers pioneered by Soft Robotics, goes well beyond apple picking. The major challenges that automated picking and packing technologies face in today’s large e-commerce warehouses include not only a wide array of differently sized and shaped products with varying weights and degrees of rigidity, but also the often non-uniform placement of these objects in bins.

One solution is to equip automated grabbers with sensors capable of determining the physical characteristics of the item and its orientation and then relating these qualities to the item’s specific handling requirements. Traditional systems of this type are not only inflexible but also rely on many moving parts to securely grab the item.

Soft Robotic Grippers Adapt Without Sensors

The Soft Robotics grippers use air pressure to manipulate the flexible fingers that grab a wide variety of items without the need for sensors or mechanical parts. The platform is simple, inexpensive and efficient, capable of picking up items as heavy and rigid as an iron weight or as light and soft as a loaf of bread.

While the ability to safely grab and transport delicate and perishable items is likely to ensure that your future groceries are passing through robotic fingers on their way to your supermarket or even to your home, the same technology will have a role in picking and packing your e-commerce orders as well. An adaptable robotic gripper will be able to grab and pack your box of goodies, no matter how many different shapes and sizes of items you’ve ordered.

Take a look at the video below to see the Soft Robotics grippers in action:

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