Force Sensors for Robotic Berry Picking Prototype

Harvesting blackberries requires a delicate touch to select and pick the ripe fruit without damage. It’s always been a slow and laborious process requiring manual labor. 

Graduate mechanical engineering students are working to change that with a soft robot berry picker that mimics the delicate grip and sensitivity of the human hand. They used Tekscan sensor technology to research the force ranges, and embed in their prototype. 

They started by learning the force range needed to grab and grip blackberries by using Flexiforce A201 sensors on human hands and collecting that data.  Next, they built a tendon-driven soft robotic gripper with Flexiforce A301 sensors to grab and pick the berries. 

The prototype was shown to farmers of the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, and successfully demonstrated the feasibility of robotic grippers to harvest blackberries. The next step on the path to build a fully automated robot harvester is to develop robotic technology that can locate and identify ripe berries by color on its own.

Flexiforce sensors have been used in a number of different robotic grip and sensing applications.  Our force sensors in robotic design ebook goes into detail about the many possible applications for tekscan sensors in haptic feedback and other systems.