Last week, Soft Robotics Inc. released its mGrip modular grasping system. The Bedford, Mass.-based company said its “on-demand” system will help soft robotics proliferate and allow users “to build, validate, and install production-ready systems in minutes.”
Soft Robotics designs and sells soft manipulators using patented technology based on research by Prof. George M. Whitesides at Harvard University. Unlike rigid manipulators, the company’s fingers can handle a wide variety of objects in terms of shapes, rigidity, and fragility. It does this without requiring multiple and potentially expensive sensors.
Soft Robotics’ grippers are used in advanced manufacturing, food and beverage processing, and e-commerce order fulfillment. Customers include a major pizza retailer and Just Born Quality Confections, the maker of PEEPS.
The mGrip kit allows customers to space the soft fingers as needed. Soft Robotics’ systems are designed to work with the leading collaborative robot arms, or cobots.
Although Soft Robotics’ grippers have been developed over several years, mGrip‘s modular approach was created in response to customer demand.
“Our customers have asked for the ability to quickly build and deploy our disruptive technology, and we have delivered with mGrip,” stated Carl Vause, CEO of Soft Robotics. “mGrip leverages Soft Robotics’ factory-validated technology that has endured over two years and billions of cycles for leading manufacturing customers from around the world.”
“OEMs and robotic system integrators that serve the food and beverage, collaborative, and consumer goods industries came to us directly, seeking a modular and flexible solution for their picking applications,” Vause told The Robot Report. “In order to reach new markets with Soft Robotics’ groundbreaking gripping system, they wanted the ability to quickly build their own system and make adjustments to it in real time.”
“We held focus groups where we let customers experience the kit firsthand and provide their feedback,” he added.
“The challenge was determining the right number of components and spacing options to meet the unique requirements of our customers’ picking applications,” said Vause. “After being in the market and building solutions for our customers, we are confident that the mGrip kit that has all the right ingredients to automate each customer’s challenge, regardless of product or industry.”
Previously, Soft Robotics would create custom grippers for its users. With mGrip, most of them can set up their own configurations.
“We launched mGrip to empower all of our customers to build, validate and install their own production-ready Soft Robotics gripping systems in minutes,” Vause said. “While we will continue to do custom work on an as-need basis, we anticipate that the countless configurations and spacing options that each mGrip kit offers will meet the needs of a large share of current and future customer picking applications.”
Vause noted that mGrip is intended to make soft grasping accessible to all cobot users.
“We feel that this unlocks the potential of collaborative robots because it’s not constrained by fixed-geometry systems and is accessible for non-robot users,” he said.