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How Our Clients Are Moving Robotics Forward

Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette
by Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette on Oct 8, 2015 4:00:00 PM

We are really lucky to have customers from around the world that are pushing the boundaries of robotics. I would like to highlight a couple of applications, but as there are a bunch of different applications out there, it is kind of hard to choose. So, I have decided to choose a couple of recent applications that astonished me when I first saw them. 

First you need to know that we manufacture robotic tools to bring more flexibility to your robot cell. We are seeking to build easy to use and to deploy devices. Our product line includes 2-Finger and 3-Finger models, as well as a force-torque sensor that can be fitted on most robots on the market. We also offer a good fit with collaborative robots which are the rising stars of the robotic world today. 

2-finger-140-robot-gripper-collaborative

Dual Arm Blind Assembly

Recently we have received this video from the CRI Group, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in Singapore. The application uses two Denso robots fitted with two 2-Finger 85 Adaptive Grippers. Watch the video first and I'll explain it afterwards.

You have probably built Ikea furniture yourself at some point; yet you probably didn’t have any difficulty in inserting the wood pins into the wooden board. This is because you were using your vision, your dexterity and your tactile sensory input all together. All these 'sensors' are connected together and allow you to insert the pin without too much difficulty. So, what if you were doing the same operation blindfolded... then the only sense that remains is force feedback from the tactile and nervous systems of your arm/hand. So what you are doing is that you seek for a hole to insert the pin correctly. Well the robot is doing the exact same thing. Thanks to its force sensors between the robot flange and the robot arm, it can detect the force applied on the tips of the pin. That being said, when the pin is on the top of the wooden panel, it seeks for a hole along X+ axis (and fails), then restarts from the same position and seeks along the X- axis (and fails again), then tries to search along the Y+ axis where it finally finds the hole. 

This application is also particular since it has to position the two arms of the robot correctly in relation to each other in order to first have the right absolute position one against the other and the right alignment. It also has to be very sensitive in terms of force; to detect forces created (or not created) by the insertion of the pin. And beyond that... to do this blind. Traditionally these applications have used vision systems to identify the position of the hole and then use force feedback to align the two parts correctly. This application is quite unique and investigates new levels of complexity in robotics. 

Note that Denso is currently developing a bundle for direct integration with Robotiq Grippers for their VP series. 

Robotiq Gripper on a Satellite??

As our founding project was for the Canadarm of the ISS, we were kind of used to space application requirements. However, as we developed a 3-Finger Gripper for industrial applications we sort of left the space requirements aside and didn’t really think about using our Grippers for satellite testing applications. But obviously certain basics have remained the same and are still useful for space applications. Watch the video from the DLR (German Space Agency).

DLR is developing a satellite platform to either repair or repatriate old satellites from earth. This platform is tested using a KUKA lightweight robot, a 3-Finger Adaptive Gripper and a vision system. The robot has been developed to identify, grasp and dock with a satellite in orbit. As the cell is still in the testing phase and is using lightweight devices, it is pretty clear that they won't deploy this exact robot cell in space. No doubt they will develop their own expertise and devices. In the meantime, they are using this cell to simulate the docking of the satellite. The 3-Finger Gripper was chosen because of its dexterity; but also particularly for its encompassing abilities. As the Gripper can use its encompassing grip to 'lock' the robot in place, it can also support a relatively heavy amount of weight. This is why it makes sense to use this Gripper in the simulation. 

Read the entire article here.

Grippers Controlled from Space

Staying in the space thematic, another project uses our 2-Finger 85 Adaptive Gripper for its mobile manipulation. The European Space Agency and TU Delft Robotics Institute have paired up to create a mobile platform that can be controlled by haptic devices. Here's the video. 

In fact, the mobile platform can be controlled from the ISS using a tablet and a haptic joystick. The control interface is quite simple and actually works really well. The advantage of using Robotiq Grippers in this application is the fact that the Gripper can adapt itself to different geometries, shapes and textures. So it can perform several applications like: opening a latch, inserting a pin, and using a screwdriver. All while using only one single Gripper. It can also detect if a part as been grasped or not, so if we extrapolate this simulation, you can have feedback from the robot on the state of the grasp from your control station. And trust me if you are that far away from your application, you will really want to know if the robot has grasped the object or not. Especially in situations where you don’t have a lot of room for error, like if you are traveling a certain distance to insert a part in a hole and you realize you actually don't have the part in the robot gripper and your battery is getting low, you will surely be wondering why you did not use the Gripper with force feedback. 

Read the whole article here.

Next Level Cellphone Assembly

Our friends at Artiminds made a cool demo on how to introduce a force-torque sensor on a collaborative robot. This demo uses a suction cup to assemble a cellphone. Watch the video that blew my mind on the first watch. 

The demo is using the force feedback of the FT 150 Sensor to determine if the battery or the cover is well positioned. As it detect forces from the cellphone case, the program then pass to the next step to bring the battery down and clip it in the right position. The exact same thing happens with the cover. The advantage of using a Robotiq sensor is how easy it is to introduce on a Universal Robots and how easy it is to interpret the dynamics’ data that comes out of it. Some other sensors will give you raw data and you will have to build algorithms to interpret the data. However, in this case, the force and torque in the 3 axes are expressed to give you direct information for your application. 

As you may probably know, we are also partners with a couple of DARPA DRC teams. These teams were competing for the last time in California this past June. As we attended the event to do maintenance on potential 'injured' Grippers, we realized a couple of things about how the robotic world is evolving, read more here.

So as you have probably noticed, the next generation of robot cell is using other devices than just a robot arm and gripper. They use force sensors and/or vision systems that can be joined together to give more information, precision and flexibility to your robot cell. If you would like more details on some other projects that are using the 3-Finger Gripper, click on the link below.  

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Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette
Mathieu works as the production engineer at Robotiq, where he strives to constantly optimize the production line for Robotiq Grippers. Mathieu is always looking for new manufacturing processes to make operators as efficient as possible. He is also seeking out new robotic applications and their effect on improving our world, then keeps Robotiq’s blog readers updated on his finds.
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