Mechanically compliant soft robotic grippers for automated harvesting
Automated harvesting of horticultural produce is an opportunity for Canadian farmers to improve the quality of yield, reduce labour costs, and increase revenues. The research project will focus on the design and development of soft pneumatically-driven robotic grippers that conform to the natural shape of delicate produce, such as mushrooms, in an effort to minimize crop damage during harvesting. The operating principle of the proposed grasping mechanism is based on the concept of a pneumatic artificial muscle. The soft gripper will be analyzed in terms of mechanical flexibility, pressure distribution on the target object, gripping response times, and damage to the picked produce (i.e. mushroom). The performance of the soft gripper will also be compared to the traditional passive vacuum cup grippers for picking fragile mushrooms in a large scale commercial growing bed.