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A4E headline sponsor gets to grips with fragile chocolate eggs

30 April 2012

Festo, the headline sponsor for Appetite for Engineering at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire, says its adaptive gripper (DHDG) has a unique design that is helping processors get to grips with fragile chocolate eggs

Festo says its unique “Fin Ray effect” design is based on the tail fins of fish. If soft chocolate eggs or other food products are gripped with conventional metal grippers or vacuum cups, the result can be a high level of loss and damage. This goes against the grain of the two central objectives of automation technology in the food industry: speed and quality.

Just like the human hand
The bionic adaptive gripper is light and flexible. It consists of a pneumatic actuator in the form of a bellows and three gripper fingers arranged in the Fin Ray pattern of the tail fin of a fish. The basic structure is made up of two flexible bands which meet at one end to form a triangle. Intermediate stays are connected to the bands at regular intervals by articulated joints. This flexible design enables the gripper fingers to adapt to the shape of a workpiece when pressure is applied laterally – just like a human hand, but much faster.

Sorting chocolate eggs
This bionic gripper operates on the same principle in a sorting station for chocolate eggs. The gripper fingers fully enclose the chocolate eggs without crushing them or damaging the aluminium wrapping. “The flexible design of the adaptive gripper DHDG even allows the chocolate eggs to be gripped if they are leaning to one side or are incorrectly positioned,” explains engineer Federico Nardone of the Italian system integrator FluidoDinamica.

The proportional pneumatic valve VPPM ensures that the pressure is correct; this allows individual acceleration and pressure ramps to be applied. The variable flow rates provided by these proportional valves allow the cylinder pressures to be adapted to a given production or sorting process. Everything is connected to the Festo robotic controller CMXR which controls the Tripod robotic handling unit. The Tripod moves the adaptive gripper DHDG quickly towards the chocolate eggs. “This type of robot is ideal for handling light loads at high speeds,” adds Nardone.

90 % lighter
The adaptive gripper DHDG is manufactured using selective laser sintering. In this process, successive layers of polyamide powder of a thickness of just 0.1 mm are applied and allowed to harden to form a solid component. This reduces the weight acting on the tool carrier by no less than 90 % compared with a conventional metal gripper. This means that the adaptive gripper DHDG is able to grip and transport workpieces in a very energy-efficient way.

You can find out more about this unique gripper at Appetite for Engineering or by downloading the datasheet. http://www.festo.com/net/en-gb_gb/SupportPortal/Downloads/150925


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