A robotic hand carefully grips a randomly assembled formation of colorful blocks and then puts it down. Identify, grip, depositing. Again and again. What at first glance appears to be a childlike game is actually extremely sophisticated: Tomorrow’s robots and handling systems will able to identify and examine objects on their own and ultimately handle them autonomously. At Hannover Messe, SCHUNK, the gripping system and clamping technology specialist will be demonstrating the possibilities and opportunities that intelligent gripping system solutions offer for the smart scenarios of industry 4.0 as well as how digitalization and artificial intelligence enhance handling processes.
“Industrial handling will be reinvented in the coming years,” says Prof. Dr. Markus Glück, Managing Director Research & Development, CINO at SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG in Lauffen am Neckar, Germany. In the past, each step was elaborately programmed. However, tomorrow’s handling solutions will act far more independently. “The market is already demanding gripping systems that are quick and easy to set up and that automatically adapt to varying gripping situations. Also, collaboration between humans and robots as well as communication between the components involved in the production process are rapidly becoming more important. Intelligence, networking and collaboration are becoming the drivers of production automation,” says Glück.
Powerful and versatile mechatronic grippers
However, SCHUNK is not simply throwing proven technologies over board. In fact, some product lines have been expanded, such as the pneumatic flagship PGN-plus-P, which will be showcased at Hannover Messe. At the same time, the gripping specialist is intensifying its activities in the segment. of mechatronic products. The challenge of integrating electrical control systems with gripping tools has resulted in more and more mechatronic components being interconnected. The ultimate goal is to seamlessly combine the force requirements of pneumatic systems with the networking possibilities and control landscapes of a smart, collaborative factory. For example, at Hannover Messe, SCHUNK will unveil a DGUV-certified gripper for collaborative applications that has a gripping force of 450 N, which far exceeds what was previously customary and possible. In this way, the company is opening up the collaborative application market to accommodate handling weights well beyond those of small parts assembly. Above all, the automotive supplier industry and the automotive industry itself will benefit from taking a closer look at this innovation. Moreover, SCHUNK will showcase a flexible mechatronic gripper with a long stroke for a wide variety of industrial applications. This gripper is controlled via PROFINET and positions its fingers extraordinarily fast.
Networking, machine learning, and autonomy
Once again, SCHUNK will provide a glimpse on tomorrow’s handling solutions by presenting its technology studies at Hannover Messe. With the help of machine learning, the handling solutions of the future will be able to recognize patterns and derive appropriate responses based on existing databases and algorithms. SCHUNK’s smart gripping solutions use data from multiple sensors in order to obtain new information through use of data correlation, thereby making intelligent decisions. The gripping system specialist expects a trend towards autonomous gripping in the near and distant future. By interacting with 2D and 3D cameras, grippers will be able to avoid collisions, know how to grip workpieces, and work with the overall handling system to develop the optimum gripping strategy. Ultimately, gripping systems will be able to handle parts autonomously and further refine the underlying algorithms on their own.