September 01, 2015      

The business end of a robotic arm is the gripper. The March 2105 edition of Modern Materials Handling best describes the challenge when it said: “Perhaps more than any other element of robotic development in warehousing and distribution, the end-of-arm tooling, or gripper, is the place that can make or break a robot’s success.”

Advancing gripper technology is the key to unlocking a new age of automation. An age where we can automate tote pick and pack for grocery distribution, bin picking of soft and delicate parts, e-commerce order fulfillment, fruit harvesting, luggage handling, and consumer goods packaging.

The U.S. fresh-produce packing market alone represents a $27 billion retail market searching for automation solutions. Soft Robotics has demonstrated the ability to bring robotic product handling and packaging to this market.

These are problems of adaptability, complexity, and cost. The search for a more adaptable gripper has driven up the complexity of design to devices like servo grippers and complicated tool changing requirements. This complexity comes at a high price in gripper cost, the need for larger arms, and complex software and hardware integration.

Our revolutionary soft robotic technology, covered by more than 40 patents and applications, enables us to design and manufacture soft robotic hands that address the new unstructured world of automation and logistics. Through our propriety knowledge of actuator geometry, material selection, and operating envelope, we can tune actuators to be force limiting with NO CLOSED LOOP FEEDBACK system required. Soft Robotics brings the highest level of adaptability, while lowering system complexity and total system cost.

The adaptive nature of our technology allows a single grasper to handle an unprecedented range of objects, regardless of shape, size, or weight, with no tool or software changes between cycles. We’ve demonstrated the ability to grasp bags of rice, raw food, bars of soap, boxes of toothpaste, and clothing all with a single device.

But soft does not mean weak. Our technology has the ability to scale from the smallest to the largest task. The result is an automation solution that can pack a tote for retail distribution, pick fruit off the vine, or easily handle a ten pound kettle bell.

We have demonstrated the speed and precision necessary to integrate into the factories and warehouses of today and the future, operating at speeds up to 130 picks per minute.Our system is plug and play with the most common industrial robots using industry standard protocols and vision systems.

We have designed the system to be “robot- and vision-agnostic,” allowing the system to quickly and seamlessly integrate with the full range of robots, from small collaborative systems to high speed industrial packing cells.

Soft Robotics launched our industrial product at Automate 2015 in March and our produce handling system in June 2015. They started shipping in June 2015. We are now selling systems to our pilot customers. Soft Robotics is foundational technology that solves the problems of today and unlocks the future of automation.