Robotics: Grasping Unknown Workpieces – Technocrat

Festo GripperAI for ibk robotics solutions

Festo’s GripperAI software enables “blind” gripping and thus autonomous handling solutions with the help of almost any robot, cobot or Cartesian portal. ibk Ingenieur Consult GmbH offers an online configurable robot cell as an entry-level model. This can be a proprietary solution to many capture tasks, including custom design and integration services.

What robot, cobot, or Cartesian portal user wouldn’t dream of recognizing and grasping unknown or untrained objects, including automatic gripper switching? With Festo’s GripperAI, this dream may come true in the not-too-distant future. With traditional solutions, the robot’s movements have to be trained either with the help of CAD or by hand.

Partnership promotes productivity

Festo and ibk are now expanding their partnership and entering the market with a joint robotics solution for machine and system builders as well as system and factory operators. The aim of the partnership is to make the production of different product variants automated, flexible and more cost-effective. It will also offer comprehensive solutions for the typical picking tasks of logistics.

Shorter product life cycles require flexible machine and system concepts. Due to the labor shortage, automated, but at the same time flexible, preferably self-learning automation solutions are needed in the field of production and logistics. This is the only way to reduce business and operational risks during investment and operation. Festo and ibk support the development of flexible and adaptive production processes, which are implemented with the help of an innovative AI algorithm, to grasp almost any part.

“With GripperAI, we are implementing the first robotic skill or capability for autonomous systems. But we are already working on other challenges, such as dynamic motion planning and optimal packaging of boxes. These will expand our portfolio in the coming years,” says Dr. Jan Seyler, head of Festo Advanced Analytics.

Festo GripperAI makes this cobot cell special: it recognizes and grips every part automatically. ibk makes sure that everything works in a coordinated and smooth manner.

Fully autonomous learning process

Festo GripperAI works with any robot, cobot or handling system with path interpolation. Unlike many existing applications, Festo GripperAI is actually an autonomous solution. Many manufacturers’ visual systems or robots learn based on images or CAD, or the robots are taught by hand through continuous “practice” of motion, image recognition, and grasp point calculation. The Festo GripperAI, on the other hand, follows a fully autonomous learning process and enables true “blind” gripping of any part. This even works with simple and cheap 3D cameras.

There are pre-trained skills (capabilities) available for selecting parallel or vacuum grippers, which are adapted or enhanced to the customer’s needs. These skills are offered as a set within the GripperAI suite, as well as individually or modularly. Users thus only pay for what they really need.

“For the Festo Grasping Dataset, we have focused from the very beginning on being able to expand our capabilities in artificial intelligence. This modular and highly innovative product is the proof that this has been achieved,” emphasizes Michael Sinsbeck, chief responsible for GripperAI training at Festo Research.

Festo GripperAI uses its own neural network to calculate the gripping points. It can even differentiate between different grasping techniques and is able to change tools itself.

It is flexible in every way

If the application requires high flexibility due to multiple tool changes, the tool change can also be done via Festo GripperAI. In the future, several new functions, such as positioning and dosing, can be implemented using the module. The application is flexible and can be run via a suitable gripper or tool such as a RaspberryPI, a PC on the robot or a camera, or even a cloud connection.

The pricing model also offers considerable flexibility. Although it is possible to purchase the entire GripperAI package once, it is recommended to purchase one license for each required skill, with annual renewal and upgrade service. Payment per use is also being prepared, for example through BlockChain technologies. System integrators such as ibk IngenieurConsult GmbH offer the robot integration service and customer-specific adaptation as a solution package.

“The advantage for us of cooperation with ibk is that complete robot and automation cells can be selected and ordered at a fixed price in the online store. In this way, we create a low-entry-level offer for many target groups, from laboratory automation to SMEs and logistics to the automotive industry,” says Eberhard Klotz, Global Sales Director for Industry 4.0/Digitalization at Festo.

Michael Becker, Head of Sales at ibk IngenieurConsult GmbH, adds: “Festo’s innovative technologies, such as this GripperAI, are a milestone for us as they allow us to position ourselves at the forefront of the market and offer further unique added value.”

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