September 11, 2022
In June 2022, industrial automation professionals from all over the globe gathered at Automate 2022 in Detroit. Throughout the week, more than 25,000 people walked the floor and saw the latest advances in automation technologies and services. Like most everyone else who attended this year’s show, the Soft Robotics team had an excellent Automate.
In addition to gathering at the show in person to network and discuss technologies, trends, and partnerships in automation, Soft Robotics highlighted its high-speed automated picking capabilities for food and consumer goods. Harley Green, director of business development, walked Winn Hardin, managing director, TECH B2B Marketing, through the company’s core technologies and latest innovations.
At the core of Soft Robotics’ technology is the mGrip unique soft gripping technology, which offers a modular IP69K-rated food-grade gripper that can be configured to accommodate project changes as necessary. While the mGrip’s blue fingers might be recognizable to some in the industry, Soft Robotics demonstrated several new technologies at the show, including its mGripAI solution, which combines the mGrip gripper, 3D vision (Perception Module), and powerful industrial computing (Intelligence Module).
The new mGripAI features built-in sensing and grasp detection via the mGripAI Control Module. Such a feature, according to Green, alerts customers when they’ve successfully picked and delivered a product. Furthermore, the new product produces grasp quality measurements, which then allows an operator to adjust robot speeds and velocity to accommodate less than ideal picks.
“In bulk picking applications, the robot doesn’t always get the best grip on the first try, but we needed to find a way to ensure best possible delivery of the product to the package or location,” explained Green. To that end, the gripper leverages machine learning algorithms to understand the product and its dynamics and adjusts on the fly based on grasp quality, increasing throughput and ensuring that high-quality products are delivered every single time.”
Accurate Picks From Polybags to Buffalo Wings
While Soft Robotics may be known primarily for its food automation capabilities, the company also showcased its e-commerce order fulfillment capabilities on the show floor. In a small robot cell in the booth, a FANUC robot equipped with mGripAI technology picked small bottles of lotion and deodorant sticks, both of which can be difficult for a robot to grasp due to the slick, flexible containers. The system, according to Green, can even handle polybag picks, which has been very challenging for a lot of robotic applications.
“Soft Robotics takes the human element and applies it to robotics in a way that no one else has ever done. We add a lot more flexibility and agility,” said Green.
Also on display, of course, was a food processing demonstration that involved the fast and accurate picking and placing of chicken wings. Traditionally, robots have run into issues with picking randomly oriented, slippery products such as raw poultry, but mGripAI gripper technology enables the effective, high-speed automation of even the slickiest processes.