Flexiv Rizon 4 adaptive robot arms get a grip on recycling

Automated recycling station and grip cleaner among latest announcements

Flexiv Robotics

Flexiv’s new automated recycling station combines its Rizon 4 general-purpose robot arm with its improved Grav Enhanced Gecko Gripper and new Automated Cleaning Station.
In recognition of Earth Day, Flexiv announced an automated recycling station that uses its improved Grav Enhanced Gecko Gripper with Automated Cleaning Station.

Coinciding with Earth Day 2024, general-purpose robot provider Flexiv Robotics announced its new automated recycling station.

The company also recently announced its Automated Cleaning Station for its Grav Enhanced gripper attachment.

Rizon robot arm uses machine vision to sort out recyclables

Flexiv’s recycling system uses a combination of its Grav Enhanced Gecko Gripper, a Rizon 4 adaptive robot arm, and a 3D depth camera to automatically identify and sort household waste into multiple categories.

Currently the system can differentiate between glass, plastics, and what it classes as “other” materials. This classification process leverages machine vision for initial identification, followed by a “squeeze test” with the robot's gripper for verification when classification certainty is low.

Flexiv said it has high hopes that with future refinements, Rizon will be able to accurately differentiate between plastics, metals, glass, waste paper, and textiles, allowing it to be installed at locations where mixed waste is a common problem.

“We don’t envision a Rizon robot in every house sorting out the trash, at least not yet,” said Hao Jiang, Flexiv’s director of product development. “But we do think that this type of application would be perfect for shopping centers, hotels, movie theaters, and places where the public often don’t have the time or inclination to sort waste themselves.”

Grasping randomly oriented objects without pre-programming

Building on the company’s proprietary AnyGrasp machine-learning algorithm, Flexiv said Rizon is able to pick up practically any object in any orientation without pre-programming. This ability to deal with randomly-oriented objects served as the base on which Flexiv built its recycling station.

Flexiv’s recycling station couples its recently-released Grav Enhanced gripper, which is capable of lifting almost any item weighing up to 5kg (11 pounds), with its new-to-market Grav Enhanced Automated Cleaning Station. The company added creating a recycling application with Rizon was a natural progression that was able to make use of Flexiv’s existing product range and capabilities.

Flexiv’s AnyGrasp machine-learning algorithm allows Rizon to pick up randomly-oriented objects without pre-programming. Source: Flexiv Robotics

“The development of our automated recycling station is a testament to Flexiv's dedication to making a difference,” said Howard Huang, Flexiv’s North American business director. “We envision a world where technology and responsibility go hand in hand, paving the way for a more sustainable future.”

In recognition of Earth Day, Flexiv said it demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by asking its global team to actively participate in energy watch campaigns and requested employees to avoid all disposable plastic items where possible when at work. This initiative included replacing single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives, promoting the use of reusable water bottles, cups, and cutlery, and organizing educational sessions about the impact of plastic pollution on our planet.

Grav Enhanced gripper ideal for mixed SKU pallet loading

Inspired by a gecko's foot pad, the Grav Enhanced Gripper can lift oddly-shaped or malleable objects. By using a combination of two-finger pinching and a super friction material, the gripper ensures a secure, residue-free grip and can handle everything from basketballs and boxes to soft toys and sneakers, Flexiv said.

Ideal for mixed-SKU pallet loading, the Grav Enhanced uses adaptive force sensing to ensure an optimal grip force is maintained, while the super friction material provides grip stability for object handling. The company said this combination eliminates the need for pneumatic vacuum pumps and end-of-arm tool (EOAT) changes.

Automated Cleaning Station doesn’t require proprietary equipment

Flexiv said it has improved its Grav Enhanced gripper so that it can now be cleaned using its Grav Enhanced Automated Cleaning Station. The cleaning station allows Rizon to operate effectively in environments where exposure to particulates could diminish the gripper's lifting efficiency, including manipulating objects covered with surface contaminants like dirt and dust.

Flexiv’s new Automated Cleaning Station uses standard adhesive tape and a silicone roller to clean the Grav Enhanced gripper’s super friction material. Source: Flexiv Robotics

“By packaging the Grav Enhanced Gripper with the Automated Cleaning Station, we've increased the efficiency of our gripper and massively expanded its utility,” Jiang said “This is a game-changer for businesses looking to manipulate a diverse array of objects.”

If the Grav Enhanced Gripper encounters a particularly contaminated item and the super friction material becomes compromised, a Rizon Robot can detect the loss of grip strength through a combination of force sensing and AI, and then automatically activate the Cleaning Station.

The gripper’s super friction material is cleaned using standard adhesive tape in combination with a silicone roller. Compact and fully automatic, the cleaning station doesn’t require proprietary equipment, and can maximize a user’s ROI by routinely scheduling cleaning periods to reduce robotic downtime, Flexiv said.

With a complete cleaning cycle taking less than five seconds, the Grav Enhanced and the Cleaning Station are ideal for industrial environments that require maximum uptime, the company added.

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Flexiv Robotics

Flexiv’s new automated recycling station combines its Rizon 4 general-purpose robot arm with its improved Grav Enhanced Gecko Gripper and new Automated Cleaning Station.

Robot Technologies