Soft Robotics Inc. today announced the addition of new capabilites to its mGrip modular gripping system and an IP69K rating to enable safe food handling of proteins and dairy products. The Bedford, Mass.-based company said the new features enable machine builders to design flexible end-of-arm tools that can withstand high-pressure washdown environments.
Soft Robotics has designed and built automated picking systems using its proprietary compliant end effectors, 3D machine perception, and SoftAI artificial intelligence.
Launched in 2019, the mGrip system is a suite of configurable gripper and controller products intended to realize reliable, high-speed picking of traditionally hard-to-grasp items. Hundreds of mGrip systems are in production globally, including at Fortune 100 companies in the food processing and consumer packaged goods industries.
mGrip meets food production demand
Adoption of robotic automation in the protein and dairy industries has lagged behind other food segments due to the inherent variability and stringent hygienic requirements which often require food contact surfaces to be cleaned-in-place with high pressure solutions.
“The needs of protein and dairy customers are unique and their automation options have been limited as a result,” stated Austin Harvey, director of product management at Soft Robotics. “We've seen a lot of demand from the protein and dairy industries throughout the pandemic, and we're excited to bring a new level of versatile and cleanable grasping solutions to our customers to help grow their businesses.”
Soft Robotics said its updated mGrip product line delivers four new capabilities for systems integrators:
- Deploy in washdown environments: All food-grade mGrip grippers maintain IP69K compliance, allowing for high-pressure washdown to prevent food-borne illnesses from stopping production.
- Build custom tools: The newly released mGrip adapters and accessory interface enable integrators to rapidly prototype and build custom, production-grade tooling by combining Soft Robotics' patented technology with other components such as part-presence sensors or suction cups.
- Pick smaller products: New finger modules can have tighter grip spacing, down to 20mm (0.7 in.), to improve picking performance for smaller items. These smaller, lighter finger modules result in lower-mass tools, which leave more robot payload for product handling, permit faster rates, and cause less system wear over time.
- Pick flat products: Designed specifically for picking meat and poultry patties, the new angle-tipped fingers can safely lift and grasp thin products from flat surfaces without damage.
“Simple, clean, reliable. These three words best describe why Soft Robotics' tools have been the choice for us on a number of direct food-handling projects,” said Daniel Woodbridge, mechanical design engineer at JMP Solutions. “With one of their IP69k grippers we are able to easily, and reliably, handle products of varying shapes and sizes while vastly reducing the number of parts and surfaces that would be required by a traditional mechanical gripper design. From raw meat to fresh buns, these tools have proven themselves to be the answer on many food handling projects.”
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