At the 22nd China Industrial Industry Fair, or CIIF, in Shanghai last week, Flexiv Ltd. demonstrated its force-control technology, which it said combines adaptive robotics and artificial intelligence. The company also showed industrial applications including force-controlled assembly, polishing and sanding, and connector plugging.
Founded in 2016, Flexiv has facilities in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Foshan in China, as well as in Santa Clara, Calif. The company said it “is committed to creating industry-level solutions for different scenarios, replacing manual tasks that used to be hard to automate, and upgrading low-flexibility automated production lines.”
Challenges include ball balancing
Flexiv officially launched its Rizon adaptive robot last year. Rizon has been recognized by the iF Design Award and the German Innovation Awards.
The company said the core features of its adaptive robot include high-precision and fast-response force-control technology throughout the arm. Rizon supports seven degrees of freedom, and each joint is equipped with proprietary force- and torque-sensing technology. With advanced algorithms applied to its entire structure, Rizon’s force perception and control performance are orders of magnitude better than those of traditional robots, claimed Flexiv.
To demonstrate its force-control technology, Flexiv presented the Ball Balancing Challenge at this year’s CIIF. In it, the adaptive robot determined a ball’s position on a tray in real time, based on the detection data generated by the force sensor. It could then control the ball to move along its target trajectory. If the robot arm or ball encountered any external disturbance, the robot quickly made real-time adjustments to return the ball to its original route.
Flexiv pointed out that its display operated entirely on force control. This was similar to people closing their eyes and relying solely on their arms’ force perception and control to maintain the balance of the ball on the smooth tray, it said.
The company also demonstrated the integration potential of robotics and AI technology at the event. In one, Rizon identified, classified, and autonomously picked and placed randomly positioned items to intelligently tidy a table.
In another, the robot recognized a person’s body posture and local features in real time and performed a massage according to that person’s needs. It made real-time adjustments to ensure an enjoyable and safe experience, said Flexiv.
Flexiv demo focuses on industrial polishing
Following continuous iteration of industrial applications, Flexiv demonstrated three of them at CIIF: force-control assembly, sanding and polishing of a curved surface, and connector plugging with wiring harness.
Focusing on polishing, manual labor is still deployed for surface treatments in automotive, electronics, and furniture manufacturing. The quality of the polishing process and the control of raw materials loss directly affect the final appearance of the product and the cost of the production line, said Flexiv.
Traditional robotic polishing often require additional force sensors or force-controlled floating devices to be installed at the end of the robotic arm, said the company. This can result in high procurement and maintenance costs, while such systems still have limited ability to handle complex workpieces.
By contrast, an adaptive robot requires no additional equipment, yet is able to completely change the inherent mode, Flexiv claimed. It said its polishing application ensures accurate fit to complex workpiece surfaces and precise polishing force control. The control system is designed to be easy to use, is compatible with various machine part sizes, and adapts automatically to the deviation of the workpiece and tooling, said Flexiv.
In the exhibit at CIIF, operators needed only to import the sanding trajectory via simple dragging and teaching, using a streamlined and illustrated system to set the automotive sanding process, said Flexiv. The application then provides high-precision hybrid control of force and position to ensure stable and reliable results.
“Having perfected the product and applications, based on industrial trials over the past year, we’ve brought a batch of more complete and innovative applications to this year’s CIIF,” said Dr. Wang Shiquan, co-founder and CEO of Flexiv. “At the same time, we’ve got some really interesting interactive displays to offer the audience a more intuitive experience, through which they can familiarize with the unique characteristics of adaptive robots and feel the fusion of the latest force control and AI technology.”