iMSL – Intelligent Material Systems Lab – Lehrstuhl für intelligente Materialsysteme an der Universität des Saarlandes
Material handling is a crucial part of manufacturing and assembly in industry. In state-of-the-art handling systems, robots use various end-effectors to grip and transport different shapes of workpieces. The exchange process of fitted end-effectors to appropriate workpieces, often requires to interrupt the manufacturing process. From the prospective of economic efficiency, there is an inherent benefit creating a reconfigurable end-effector that is able to adjust automatically to different workpiece geometries. In this work a novel end-effector prototype based on shape memory alloys (SMA’s) is developed and experimentally validated. The end-effector prototype has four arms with two SMA driven reconfigurable degrees of freedom (DOF’s) to allow gripping of different workpiece shapes and geometries. Each arm is rotatable by 90 degrees (1. DOF) and uses a counterweight to relieve the SMA wire. The tip of the arm is driven by a separate SMA in a 20 degree range and it has a special locking mechanism to hold different positions without any flowing current. The designs of the actuator constructions are presented and a prototype is produced via rapid-prototyping. Future work will include the characterization of the second DOF and controlling the positions of both DOF’s by using a PID controller based on the SMA self-sensing ability.