Tuesday, April 16, 2024

New ROSE robot can grasp any object without damaging it

Soft robotics grasping and manipulation remains a highly active research area within the field of robotics. Especially in the field of agriculture, automation of harvesting work by robot hands is progressing, and it is attracting attention as a useful means for harvesting crops without damaging them.

Such robots have already been developed, but the results of gripping delicate crops such as strawberries and peaches are not good. Moreover, one of the reasons why robot hands have not spread widely is that robots are expensive.

Now, a research team from the Japan Advanced Institute of Technology (JAIST) has come up with a groundbreaking solution to these problems. Inspired by a blooming rose, they have developed an innovative soft robotic gripper called ROSE (ROtation-based-Squeezing grippEr) that can grasp any object without damaging the object and its surroundings.

Researchers created a skin using a soft material for the ROSE robot and proposed a simple mechanism. ROSE’s soft gripping part has the shape of a cylindrical funnel or sleeve and is connected to a hard circular base, which in turn is attached to the shaft of an actuator. The funnel must be placed over the object meant to be picked up, covering a decent portion of its surface area. Then, the actuator makes the base turn, which causes the flexible funnel’s skin to wrap tightly around the object. This reduces the complexity of control without damaging the gripped object.

The ROSE robot hand can grasp various objects due to its large contact area and closed structure. In addition, it can be manufactured at a low cost by forming the rotating part using a small amount of soft material and resin material by 3D printing.

Also, ROSE can easily pick up a wide variety of objects without complex control and sensing mechanisms. Its sleeve applies a gentler, more uniform pressure, unlike grippers that rely on finger-like structures. This makes ROSE better suited for handling fragile produce, such as strawberries and pears, as well as slippery objects.

Weighing less than 200 grams, the gripper can achieve an impressive payload-to-weight ratio of 6812%. It remained functional after 400,000 trials and can still lift items even if the sleeve gets torn.

What’s more, ROSE can be endowed with sensing capabilities. The researchers achieved this by placing multiple cameras on top of the circular base, pointing at the inside of the funnel covered in markers whose position could be picked up by the cameras and analyzed through image processing algorithms. This promising approach allows for size and shape estimation of the grasped object.

ROSE could be an enticing option for various applications, including harvesting operations and sorting items in factories, farms, professional kitchens, and warehouses.

“The ROSE gripper holds significant potential to revolutionize gripping applications and gain widespread acceptance across various fields,” concludes Associate Professor Van Anh Ho. “Its straightforward yet robust and dependable design is set to inspire researchers and manufacturers to embrace it for a wide variety of gripping tasks in the near future.”