The principle behind the Piezo Gripper is the piezoelectric technology, which measures changes in pressure, acceleration, strain or force and converts them to an electrical charge suitable for the safe handling of products of any size, configuration or delicacy. Piezo is Greek for ‘press’ or ‘squeeze’. With the appropriate combination of proximity, position and distance sensors, a piezo-equipped robot can be suited to a wide variety of material handling applications.
The challenge with robotic grippers is the gentle handling of discrete items. As the trends to miniaturization in the consumer electronics industry and toward smaller form factors in food and life sciences continue, small scale manipulation is becoming more important — opening applications for Parker’s Piezo Gripper concept. This technology is particularly suitable for processes that are neither nano nor macro, but somewhere in between.
The fine motor handling of delicate objects—especially in food processing and pharmaceutical industries—has been a hit and miss affair. You not only don’t want to mar the product, but you also want to prevent any kind of sticking between the product and the end effector. With Piezo technology used in candy production, for example, a robot can transfer a sticky chocolate covered confection to a transfer point and, with a quick burst of power and a high frequency oscillation, release that product from the gripper without causing damage. This methodology is hygienic, as there is minimal handling of the product, and because gross movements are minimized, lighter, more fragile kinds of products are transferred intact. Ideal applications in the food industry include lunch meat, cookies, pouches of dried fruit or cereal, juice or milk cartons and sacks of flour or sugar.