Mind the Grip in the Food and Beverage Industry During the New “Normal”
With food and beverage manufacturers and employees facing challenges related to the new “normal,” including heightened standards of hygiene and social distancing regulations, there is no more perfect time than now to consider supplementing the human workforce with smart automation. Indeed, robots can step in to fill those gaps and roles that are no longer safe or feasible for us—plus we should remember that robots can operate almost nonstop.
The development of new gripper technology accompanied by Advanced Sensors strain gages can change everything we know about traditional robots. Of the “five” human senses (smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing), touch or grip is of primary importance in adapting robots to perform intricate mechanical tasks in the automated food and beverage process.
We are just beginning to see the impact of commercial robots on emerging and critical sectors during the new normal such as the food and beverage Industry that can integrate full bridge and shear Advanced Sensors strain gages in several parts as in the fingers of a robotic gripper to achieve very sensitive, discrimination implementation of tactile or force/touch feedback.
Micro-Measurement’s Advanced Sensors Technology strain gages can be incorporated into several new modern food and beverage custom robots force/torque transducers. This technology creates exceptionally versatile smart robots that are capable of performing a wide variety of workbench tasks at every delicate production phase of the modern automated food and beverage process – with accuracy, precision, reliability, speed, and adaptability in all kinds of working conditions. In some existing cases today, the gripper fingers contain built-in triaxial strain gage transducers for universal force sensing, and IR optical detectors to register the presence of an object between the fingers.
Another benefit from using Advanced Sensors strain gages as a force sensing element in the modern food and beverage process is the elegant simplicity that these sensors can provide in the design of small, compact force/touch screens. The new force-touch sensing method based on Advanced Sensors Technology employed in several parts of the robot is particularly effective for many types of functions and requirements in the production process. A similar principle is widely used today in load-cell transducers for low-capacity weighing applications which is also common in the food and beverage process.
Example of two prototype applications:
In one the type of strain gage that was selected for this application was a multi-grid strain sensor for multi-axis force, axial and torsional load measurements; these gages are installed with Micro-Measurements elevated-temperature-curing epoxy adhesive, M-Bond 610, and protected from the environment with M-Coat C.
The second application in particular posed many technical challenges. The finished sensor contained three full-bridge circuits of four strain gages each. The physical constraints of the application, fitting multiple force measurements on a part the size of a fingertip, required using an ultra-miniature strain gage. Micro-Measurements is the only manufacturer of strain gages built with Advanced Sensors Technology suitable for this application. Micro-Measurements’ available strain gage geometries and patterns far exceed their competitors’ offerings, not only in size but resistance options and complexity. The Micro-Measurements strain gages available off the shelf not only made this sensor technically feasible, they worked flawlessly in terms of sensor combined errors and measurement crosstalk. In addition to the wealth of Micro-Measurements strain gage and accessory offerings, their field and application engineers will go above and beyond to solve their customers’ technical problems. If an existing product does not exist meet the application requirements, they will work with you to come up with a custom solution.
Strain gage technology, as a key internal component of finished force/torque sensor design in any modern robot development, is a long-recognized industry standard. The strain gage sensors are used basically to detect a change in electrical resistance, occurring in response to an applied force. In addition to their reliability, strain gages are relatively compact and low cost. This has facilitated their widespread adoption into many of today’s robots functions and precision transducer design by actively measuring force, load, position, pressure, tension and weight. Such traditional designs have typically called for the bonding and soldering of anywhere from one to four individual strain gages within a single proprietary configuration. Among these, the full Wheatstone bridge, a four-strain-gage arrangement, has consistently offered the highest measurement accuracy, sensitivity and extraneous temperature cancellation.
The Micro-Measurements product portfolio with Advanced Sensors Technology includes linear, shear and circular gages, arranged as individual, half-bridge and full-bridge configurations, in ranges from 350 Ω to 20 kΩ, with added flexibility in mounting options including the incorporation of sensors into flexible circuit arrays. The Advanced Sensor Technology improves grid-to-grid tolerances and matching over traditional strain gage manufacturing techniques, enabling better sensor performance. In the case of full-bridge gage configurations, all intra-bridge connections are integrated directly into the pattern itself, eliminating the need for traditional intra-bridge wiring and soldering and reducing individual gage placement errors. The addition of gold-plated solder pads improves solder-joint reliability, while reducing the risks of solder pad oxidation prior to lead wire attachment. These processes further ensure the close matching of grid-to-grid thermal characteristics and bridge circuit thermal output cancellation specifications, both of which are essential to strain gage measurement accuracy. For more information regarding Advanced Sensors Technology, or other product and technology offerings from Micro-Measurements, visit www.micro-measurements.com