A robot developed by Cambridge Consultants called Hank aims to be the world’s most dexterous robot with humanlike mobility.
Hank features pneumatic fingers that are flexible and contain a ‘pioneering’ sensor to provide a sense of touch and grip. Using the sensor, Hank is able to hold and grip even the most delicate objects.
The inability to emulate the human touch has been a key reason behind the lack of robot adoption in areas like manufacturing line picking and agriculture.
Bruce Ackman, Logistics Commercial Lead at Cambridge Consultants, commented:
“The logistics industry relies heavily on human labour to perform warehouse picking and packing and has to deal with issues of staff retention and shortages. Automation of this part of the logistics chain lags behind the large-scale automation seen elsewhere.
Hank’s world-leading sensory system is a game changer for the logistics industry, making actions such as robotic bin picking and end-to-end automated order fulfilment possible. Adding a sense of touch and slip, generated by a single, low-cost sensor, means that Hank’s fingers could bring new efficiencies to giant distribution centres.”
Hank’s grip does not require millimetre-accurate positioning due to its use of airflows to control the flex and force of each finger. Much like human fingers, Hank’s will close until it ‘feels’ the object. If a slip is detected then increased force is applied.
The solution is said to be more effective and cheaper than current robots with articulating arms used in warehouse automation. Such robots need costly sensing devices and vision sensors to accurately position the end effector (fingers) and grasp objects.
Hank’s fingers are moulded from silicone and the surface is designed to be flexible, food safe and cleanable. As a low-cost consumable, the fingers can simply be replaced if they become damaged or worn.
Here’s a video with Hank in action:
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