Soft Robotics Launches 3D Vision Software to Accelerate Automation in the Food and Beverage Industry
Soft Robotics created a 3D automated solution to provide a human-like robotic workforce for the food and beverage industry and packing operations.
Soft Robotics Inc. is a Massachusetts-based technology company that provides robotic manipulation systems and software solutions for consumer goods and food and beverage sectors.
Recently, the company launched its new robotic automation solution, SoftAI. The new solution targets the food and beverage industry and is hoped to boost its productivity by enhancing food processing.
The $4 trillion food and beverage industry depends on human labor to feed communities across the globe. However, human labor can be unreliable due to sickness, shortages, and the risk of disease spread (as society is currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic).
Until recently, robot pick and place systems have been challenging to design and program to handle delicate and variable objects in unstructured environments. The food industry is now turning towards robotic automation to provide a solution to such issues. This is where SoftAI Solutions comes in.
The SoftAI Platform
SoftAI combines 3D vision (“eyes”), AI technologies (“brain”), and Soft Robotics' patented IP69K-rated, soft grasping (“hands”) to give industrial robots the hand-eye coordination of human workers.
Video used courtesy of Soft Robotics
The ingress protection (IP) rating IP69K provides ingress protection against dust, high temperatures, and high-pressure water. This protection is suitable for equipment that needs to be carefully sanitized, such as for the grasping hands of pick and place robots handling food like raw chicken or bakery products.
In a recent news release, the CEO of Soft Robotics, Jeff Beck, commented, "Robots have been widely adopted across an array of industries resulting in safer working environments, consistently higher quality products, and improved economics for operators," said Jeff Beck, CEO at Soft Robotics.
"However, robotics adoption in food production operations has been very limited due to technological and sanitation challenges. SoftAI was specifically developed by a team of highly accomplished robotics engineers to solve those challenges," Beck concluded.
The mGrip soft gripper is suitable for use in the food manufacturing industry, including protein and dairy products. Screenshot used courtesy of Soft Robotics
Essentially, the “eyes” (3D vision), “brains” (AI), and “hands” (robot) come together to generate an automated robotic solution. This solution aims to support a more resilient food and beverage supply chain for the future of humanity. More specifically, the SoftAI Solution uses Perception Modules for its “eyes” to help capture 3D images of food products.
The images are sent to the Intelligence Module, food manufacturing translated into action for the robot arm and gripper. With instructions from the Intelligence Module, the mGrip soft gripper (“hands”) then picks the selected product.
Real-time Object Tracking
The SoftAI Solution provides real-time object tracking to maximize pick accuracy and embedded object understanding to facilitate downstream processes.
Soft Robotics Soft AI platform works with systems and robot grippers to help streamline processes in the food and beverage industry. Image used courtesy of Soft Robotics
Intelligent robot motion control is integrated to provide maximum throughput, and the robot’s grasp has been fine-tuned to provide optimum reliability. Customers can also use intelligent object placement, which enables delicate object delivery and placement into packaging.
Control engineers and automation experts in different industries (such as those in pharma and electronics) could also benefit from such technology should they require the precise placement of delicate objects. This may include small objects or those that need to be handled without risk of contamination.