Humans are not so clean so let the soft robots handle your food
Soft Robotics Inc. soft grippers could be packing most of your food - and that's a good thing!
Humans need food but more importantly food that has been prepared with love, cleanliness and gentleness. The issue is humans have limited time so access to clean and gentle people could be tricky.
No worries! We can still get clean and lovingly prepared food from the robots.
In industry, these robots that can pick and pack things are called end-of-arm tools system (EOATs). EOAT acts like the wrist of a human which is why it is called End of Arm system.
Example of EOAT system is like this gripper on the end of a robot arm.
There are advantages of using a robot to prepare and pack our foods.
Just face it. Humans are not that clean sometimes. The food production area can be cleaner and be contamination-free because robots can operate in a vacuum with no humans around. This could reduce the cost of recalls for food production companies. See Peanut Corp of America recalling salmonella peanuts.
Its also sometimes difficult to find workers for production jobs. No human wants to perform the same task over and over again every day. Its simply just not fulfilling work. We are better off doing things we are made to do like spending more time with family or solving problems. Yay automated robots!
Food regulations around the world are also becoming tighter – the increase of transparency into how food is produced and packed is a good thing and robot EOAT solutions is the right tool for the job.
Robots dealing with our food is cool idea and is also sanitary. But not just any kind of robot can do the job efficiently. A hard robot like the picture above will have problems adapting to the millions of different kinds of foods and products surfaces. This will require a new tool to be built every time which can be very costly for companies. Here is where soft robots can help.
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Meet Soft Robotics Inc., a company based in Bedford, Massachusetts that are doing incredible and outstanding work with pneumatic soft robot grippers. These grippers can be used for food production, advanced manufacturingm eCommerce packing and various other jobs that involve gentle robots. The CEO Carl Vause partnered with Dr. George Whiteside of Harvard in 2013 to explore commercial applications of soft robotics.
Very quickly, if you are interested in soft robotics, Dr. Whiteside has a very interesting and inspiring lecture on soft robotics and its applications. Grab some popcorn for this one!
The bread and butter of Soft Robotics product line is the mGrip modular gripping system.
mGrip gently handling a special kind of eclair..
mGrip lovingly embracing a donut..
mGrip with a rubber ducky..
Soft robot gripper kitting various items.
MGrip soft-robotic modular blue finger gripper system has limitless configurations and spacing options to grip whatever you want in your assembly line. The award winning mGrip technology comes in a kit with all the components needed to validate and install custom production lines that fit your needs. It also has multiple actuator lengths to fit your specific project.
This is the mGrip circular kit..
Parts list for mGrip circular kit..
You can buy the kit and assemble it yourself and it works with many other robot arm systems as end-of-arm-tooling system (EOATS).
Soft Robotics also provides its own software to configure the grip strength, opening amount and saving those settings to different profiles. These grippers are also designed in a way to successfully grip many different food shapes, sizes, textures and softness so no more squished Little Debbie Mini Powdered Donuts.
Soft Robotics also has the mGrip P4Y Kit that was specially designed for Yaskawa Robots – the worlds largest manufacturer of AC Drives and Motion Control products.
The P4Y was design for task variability. In the video, the Yaskawa Robot arm works together with Soft Robotics P4Y to pack a case of tennis balls.
Side note time…kinda..
See a Yaskawa machine turn into a samurai master...
Back to Soft Robotics...
Soft Robotics have helped many clients improve and automate their packing systems. One system improved with a happy customer is Micron Solutions which used Soft Robotics gripper to pick and place their delicate injection molded plastic automotive clips.
According to product manufacturing engineer at Micron, Soft Robotics “saved us without damaging any parts” and completely eliminated damaged product from coming back to haunt them.
The return on investment of the gripper was also less than one year. Also Micron states that no employee lost their job and instead got shifted to another task. In fact the employees have come to like the gripper robot and have become good friends because the robot makes their job easier. VOILA!
There are countless potential applications for soft robots.
See Singapore’s first robot massage therapist EMMA.
Also the Harvard scientist have done it again with a flexible robot...
Soft robots has it advantages compared to hard robots and we are increasingly seeing more of the technology being used in industry. Soft robots don't break easily, can adapt to the surface they are gripping easily and also be configured easily to a wide range of applications. to You can expect the future to be very soft and gentle.
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