Fruit-picking robot demonstrates innovative solution to a complex automation challenge

A robotics breakthrough by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants is set to boost productivity across the food chain – from the field to the warehouse. It paves the way for robots to take on complex picking and sorting tasks involving irregular organic items – sorting fruit and vegetables, for example, or locating and removing specific weeds among crops in a field.

“Traditional robots struggle when it comes to adapting to deal with uncertainty,” said Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants. “Our innovative blend of existing technologies and novel signal processing techniques has resulted in a radical new system design that is poised to disrupt the industry.”

Robot technology has been around for a long time and robots are very good at doing the same thing over and over again within a controlled environment. Where they struggle is doing not quite the same thing over and over again. Working within a changing environment – or performing tasks that need to vary from time to time – has traditionally been very challenging for robot systems.

Robots in car production lines, for example, can move metal parts weighing hundreds of kilograms from one place to another with sub-millimetre accuracy. This is simple for the robots – and the computers managing them – to achieve, since all the parts are identical and the positions never change.

Contrast this with the task of picking up fruit and vegetables in a warehouse. To succeed at this, robots must be able to work around people, cope with irregular items, and adapt to a changing environment. Designing a robot that is able to pick a number of different items like fruit requires many tasks to be performed – from recognising the correct objects and calculating what order to pick them in, to planning the grip, and the lifting and placing of the items.

 

 

“Our world-class industrial sensing and control team has combined high-powered image-processing algorithms with low-cost sensors and commodity hardware to allow ‘soft’ control of robots when the task is not rigidly defined,” said Roberts. “The system is capable of handling objects for which no detailed computer-aided design (CAD) model exists – a necessary step to using a robot with natural objects which, although they share some characteristics, are not identical.

“Our demonstration of the technology has fruit stacked randomly in a bowl – with our robot using machine vision and some smart software to identify which piece of fruit is on top. It translates this information into real-world co-ordinates and positions the ‘hand’ to pick the required fruit, whilst avoiding other objects. The custom-made hand adapts to the shape of the fruit and securely grips it without damaging it. Once picked, the fruit can also be sorted by colour so that, for example, red apples can be separated from green apples.

“The robot system demonstrates what is possible when you bring together experts from different fields to solve a problem. We’ve combined our programming, electronics and mechanical engineering expertise with our machine vision and robotics skills to demonstrate the kind of smart system that could transform a variety of industrial and commercial processes.

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating its robot technology at the Electronic Design Show, October 21-22, at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, stand B5 – and at AgriTechnica, November 10-14, at the Messegelände in Hanover, Germany, hall 15, stand F13.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants (剑桥顾问公司)开发突破性产品,产生和授权知识产权,并为全球的客户提供商业资讯,解决与技术相关的关键问题。60多年来,公司一直致力于帮助客户转化商业机会,包括推出市场领先的产品,进入新市场,引入新技术扩大现有市场。公司拥有超过900名员工,包括工程师、科学家、数学家和设计师,遍布于英国剑桥、美国波士顿、东京和新加坡办事处,为医疗和生命科学、工业和能源、消费和零售以及通讯和基础设施等多个行业提供解决方案。欲了解更多信息,请访问: www.cambridgeconsultants.com

Cambridge Consultants是 Capgemini Invent (凯捷集团的创新、咨询和转型品牌)的子公司。Capgemini Invent帮助管理者设想和构建他们组织的未来。公司在全球设有30多个办事处和25个创意工作室,是一支拥有7000多名员工的强大团队,将战略、技术、数据科学和创意设计与深厚的行业专业知识和洞察力相结合,开发新的数字解决方案和未来的商业模式。

凯捷集团是通过技术来为客户改造和管理业务的全球领导者,而Capgemini Invent是凯捷集团不可或缺的一部分。集团的宗旨是通过技术释放人类的潜能,实现包容性和可持续的未来。它是一个及负社会责任的多元化组织,在近50个国家拥有27万名团队成员。凭借其50年的悠久历史和深厚的行业专业知识,凯捷集团受到客户的信赖,在快速发展和充满创新的云、数据、人工智能、连接、软件、数字工程和平台技术的推动下,能够满足客户从战略、设计到运营的所有业务需求。集团2020年的全球营收为160亿欧元。

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