Automate Bag Handling With Soft Grippers

Robotic handling of bagged products presents unique challenges for manufacturers across many sectors of the industry due to product variability. Traditional gripping methods can’t handle varied SKUs without a tool change, incurring added costs or downtime. Today, robots are extremely successful with automating repetitive tasks but when it comes to bagged products, from produce such as bagged potatoes to medical supplies such as IV bags, robots can’t handle changes in size, shape, and weight. Robotic automation for bagged products requires a flexible solution that can reliably grasp varied products without sacrificing productivity or quality. By choosing the right end-of-arm tool (EOAT), you can automate bags and start growing your business.

The inability to automate bagged products successfully faces manufacturers today due to the unstructured nature of bags. Without a reliable grasp, robots can’t pick up products that change in shape and weight. Bagged products allow contents to shift inside which means the structure, weight, and shape are always changing. Without a firm grip, products can be dropped or missed altogether. Add speed to the application and products can slip, fly, or even whip across the room, damaging the product or worse, injuring a human worker.  Successful bag automation requires an EOAT that can adapt to changing structures as items shift. 

Traditional technologies such as suction cups and rigid grippers have historically been unable to automate items that vary in shape and weight, like bagged products. Suction cups, for example, need product surfaces to be consistently flat. However, the movement and unstructured nature of bags make this consistency difficult for suction cups to manage. With these vacuum-based systems, the suction cup is pinching the product from the top, which can cause “bruising” or “pulling” of the bag, leaving marks or damage behind. Then, when you start to move at high speed, that’s when you run the risk of the product slipping because there’s nothing structurally holding the bottom of the bag. Rigid grippers, because they need to be custom designed for each product SKU, are not able to adjust in real-time to these shifts in weight or shape. This means that without constant calibration, rigid grippers also run the risk of dropping or damaging products. 

If you’re looking to automate food, read this blog post to learn more about the 3 end-of-arm tools for your food operation.


As humans, we instinctively conform and adapt our grasp around the products we’re picking up. This adaptability enables us to successfully grasp items that vary in size, shape, and weight. So how do you reliably automate the pick of bagged products that are constantly changing? With the right EOAT, robots can also adjust to the changing shapes, weights, and sizes of bagged items – just like the human hand. 

Bagged Potatoes

 

With mGrip, our soft gripper picks up bagged products with an enveloping grasp. An enveloping grasp means each finger wraps around the bag firmly to ensure a reliable hold. Whether it’s plastic, mesh, or paper, a soft gripper can pick and place unstructured bagged items with the capabilities of a human hand. A single soft gripper can pick and place products with varying shapes and sizes. 

 

The difficulty of bag handling means that a reliable grasp is crucial to the operation. When it comes to robotic automation, start with the right questions.  Download our checklist to find out the top 10 questions to ask when choosing an EOAT.

 

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