INESCOP is researching into the robotisation of insole bagging task
The H2020 APRIL project, which is working on the creation of an innovative robotic system for the handling of deformable and flexible materials used in different sectors such as footwear manufacturing, meat, and textiles, among others, is running for almost two years and has achieved very positive results in terms of meeting its objective
Today, most strategic industries in Europe need to handle flexible and deformable elements in their manufacturing processes, but in addition, many of the operations that are carried out require the active participation of an operator, which constitutes a double challenge for the robotisation of these processes.
The APRIL project aims to provide a holistic solution to this problem by implementing an easily configurable robotic system with the appropriate dexterity for handling, assembling, and processing different elements. The solution achieved will take the form of six demonstrators in the facilities of the different industrial partners involved in the project.
In the specific case of INESCOP, within the footwear sector, the challenge of robotic bagging of insoles is tackled with a twofold objective: on the one hand, the aim is to free the worker from repetitive and tedious tasks which, without requiring much strength, can cause injuries due to muscular fatigue and, on the other hand, it is intended to achieve an improvement in the technological level of the workplace, going from a low-profile operator to an operator supervising the robotic system.
It is in this context that the APRIL project was launched. A technological challenge to create a robotic system capable of handling insoles.
"During the first year of research, we have defined and narrowed down the specific use case for our sector: the bagging of insoles", explains María Dolores Fabregat, Head of the Robotics Dept. at INESCOP.
So far, INESCOP has assembled all the hardware external to the robot which constitutes the work scenario; this hardware is made up of an insole conveyor, a bag dispenser which fixes and opens the bags and finally a sealer to carry out the final process of closing the bags with the insoles inside them.
The robotics team, while acknowledging that there is still a long way to go to achieve robust bag fixation and opening, is optimistic that the first trials have been successful. At present, INESCOP is working on perfecting the bag dispenser so that it can securely fix and open the bag, providing the appropriate spaces for the robotic hand to be able to put the pair of insoles into the bag.
Similarly, the project's industrial partners are working on their applications; ASINCAR, in the meat sector, is working on the handling of chicken thighs and breasts, OSAI, in the electronics sector, is working to robotise the assembly process of very fragile metal parts on plastic moulds, INCM is working on a solution for the handling of passports, PEMU is working on a solution for the textile industry, robotising several processes in which viscoelastic pillows are handled, and SILVERLINE, as a manufacturer of small household appliances, is working on a solution to robotise several processes in its extractor hood manufacturing chain.
The rest of the partners: TREE, DFKI, PIAP, K46, IIT, SSSA are working transversally in all the use cases applying their knowledge in vision, simulation, integration and safety, and PRENSILIA provides the robotic hands that will allow the effective manipulation of such disparate elements, while the Technical University of Madrid UPM is performing the coordination work between all the partners and the European Commission.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research under grant agreement No 870142