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Fanuc partners with Soft Robotics to integrate new gripper solutions into its industrial robots

Fanuc, the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial robots, is partnering with Soft Robotics to develop new gripper solutions. (See video below.)

Soft Robotics, a startup which has produced much-discussed end-effectors that are soft and capable of handling soft products that may be of variable shape, says the strategic partnership with Fanuc will accelerate the adoption of integrated soft robotic solutions into high-growth automation markets worldwide.

Soft Robotics’ “mGrip” modular gripper system and automation solutions have enabled implementation of robotic applications in the highly variable and unstructured environments of consumer goods manufacturing, food processing and packaging, and e-commerce supply chain automation.

Through this partnership, users of Fanuc robots are able to directly program and implement Soft Robotics’ proprietary technology into their workstreams, and Soft Robotics’ mGrip system and Fanuc optimized control system with robots are now available for purchase through Fanuc’s global network.

Kenichiro Abe, senior managing officer, general manager, robot mechanical development laboratory, Fanuc, says: “Soft Robotics has demonstrated its distinct expertise in tackling some of the most vexing problems facing the food, beverage, and consumer goods industries, particularly with respect to the high variability of products and processes.

Soft Robotics’ “mGrip” modular gripper

“Together, we can move robots off of the assembly line into more real-world applications and provide differentiated value to high growth markets where automation has historically been infeasible.”

The collaboration between Soft Robotics and Fanuc was initiated through the shared realization of the growth opportunity in the “general industry” market, encompassing food processing and packaging, consumer goods and cosmetic manufacturing, and logistics applications.

These segments present previously off-limits automation challenges due to the complexity of handling products with shape variability, overall fragility and strict regulatory requirements.

Soft Robotics’ mGrip enables robotic solutions in these highly variable industries while also bringing stringent compliance standards and certification to the United States’ Food and Drug Administration, Japan, and European Commission requirements for direct food handling.

Carl Vause, CEO, Soft Robotics, says: “This historic partnership is a true validation of our award-winning products and technology.

“When combined with Fanuc’s global reach in robotics, we will be able to offer end-users and system integrators a single, powerful and agile automation solution to address the unique needs of underserved markets.

Carmichael Roberts, founder and managing partner of material impact and chairman of the board of Soft Robotics, says: “From its earliest days at Harvard, Soft Robotics’ potential to fundamentally transform industrial automation was obvious.

“The partnership with FANUC will expand on the profound impact this technology is having across industries and geographies, making it the new gold standard in robotic automation.”

Soft Robotics and Fanuc will be demonstrating the combined solution at the 2019 International Robotics Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, December 18-21, 2019, Booth #B-31 in Aomi B Hall, with the new Fanuc DR-3iB Delta robot, Fanuc’s innovative solution for picking and packing primary and secondary food products.

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