Table of contents:
- Lift without grabbing
- Control objects in the balance
- Interested parties and partners in the industry wanted
- Machine safety user meeting
Video: Robot Lifts The Smallest Objects Without Touching Them
2023 Author: Hannah Pearcy | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:12
So far, it has only been a prototype that Marcel Schuck developed at ETH Zurich, but the idea is promising: a small ball hovers between two hemispheres, held in the air by ultrasonic waves. With the new method, small objects can be lifted and manipulated without any touch. This is particularly relevant where damage to small parts costs money, for example in the watch or semiconductor industry.
Lift without grabbing
Sensitive small parts are often gripped with so-called “soft robotic grippers”. These grippers are soft and rubbery so as not to damage anything - but have disadvantages. On the one hand they get dirty like a much used eraser, and on the other hand the positioning accuracy is limited. There are also so delicate small parts that even a gentle touch destroys something.
The new principle "No-Touch-Robotic" overcomes these disadvantages. It is made possible by an effect that has been used for over 80 years and especially in space research. Ultrasonic waves create a pressure field that is invisible and audible to us. By superimposing the acoustic waves, pressure points are created where small objects can be caught. As a result, they seem to hang freely in the air - they hover in the acoustic trap.
Control objects in the balance
In the medium term, Schuck plans to develop a robot-controlled ultrasonic gripper from the prototype. The 31-year-old has installed numerous mini speakers in two hemispheres produced using 3D printing. Using software, he can control it so that the pressure points can be moved. The long-term goal is to change their position in real time without the floating object falling to the ground. This is exactly what the ETH doctoral student Marc Röthlisberger is researching, who forms a laboratory community with Schuck and the master student Christian Burkard in the Technopark Zurich.
When is the purchase of a robot system worthwhile?
With the existing technology, the researchers can already move various small parts in the room. The software adapts the gripper to the shape of the object to be lifted, and the robot arm transports it to the destination.
Another advantage of the contactless gripper is that you only need a single gripper for different shapes - in classic robotics you need a separate gripper for almost every new shape. The robot arm itself doesn't even have to be very precise. “The software uses ultrasound waves to control the exact positioning,” explains Schuck.
Interested parties and partners in the industry wanted
Schuck first wants to find out how robotic arms are actually used in practice. "The main goal is to get to know the areas of application and to open doors in industry," explains Schuck. The development is likely to be interesting for the watchmaking industry, where precise micromechanics are required due to the costly small parts. For example, watch gears are first lubricated, then the thickness of this layer is measured. Even the slightest touch could destroy the thin lubricant film. Microchip production could also be an interesting market for Schuck's technology.
Make industrial robots safe
With the help of a grant, Schuck creates a kind of experiment kit for potential customers. This includes a robot gripper, control software and instructions. It is not yet clear what the end product will look like, explains Schuck: "It depends on the feedback from the industry." He hopes that he will find a few prospective customers with whom he can develop the ultrasonic gripper together - so that it can meet demand corresponds to the market.
Machine safety user meeting
Machine safety is an important issue: the correct standards must be taken into account and the requirements of the Machinery Directive must be complied with. The machine safety user meeting supports developers and designers to ensure the functional safety of machines and systems.