BY designing a robotic hand as part of their final year project, a group of engineering students from Swinburne TAFE have addressed an industry need.
The students designed the hand for Kockums Bulk Systems, a company that specialises in packaging and palletising equipment, as there were no other designs available that met the company’s specific requirements.
“There is no one in the world that has done anything quite like this, which is why Kockums asked our students to design something.
“I think the students surprised them when they were able to come up with something that was quite viable,” Swinburne Mechatronics teacher Ian Black said.
Engineers from the company briefed the students on their requirements. They needed a robotic hand that was able to pick up plastic bags between 2 and 20kg and stack them on a pallet at a rate of one bag every three seconds. The hand also had to be able to rotate 360° and be able to interface mechanically with an existing robot.
“The robot hand could be used to stack things such as soil or fertiliser bags on to pallets before they are delivered to retailers such as Bunnings or Mitre 10,” Black said.
Four students worked in pairs and came up with two separate designs for the project. Each pair went through the process of developing drawings and costings and putting together a production schedule.
The final designs are fully automated and include robotic fingers that come down and adjust to the size of the bag, which is then clamped by a cylinder. This certainly impressed Kockums project manager, Sam Lirosi
“Designing something that can pick up a bag is extremely difficult. Bags are much harder to pick up than a box, because they are fluid, flexible and variable.”
“We are now looking at this as a research and development project. If a client requires this application then we certainly have the groundings to pursue it,” Lirosi said.