The BruBotics team (Human Robotics Research Center) at imec-VUB has developed a revolutionary self-locking and self-repairing suction cup that is much more durable than those currently used in industry. They were rewarded for their SNAP (Self-closing sustaiNable vAcuum cuPs) project in the FPS Economy’s Belgium Builds Back Circular funding call for innovative projects that have a circular dimension. The award will support further development of the project.
Industrial suction cups are used to pick orders in large warehouses. They are installed on a robotic arm and operated by vacuum generators to attach to and pick up goods. With such intense use, the cups wear out quickly and the arm has to be stopped for maintenance. “Thanks to SNAP, this maintenance can be delayed for much longer, as the new suction cup technology has three innovations,” says professor of robotics Bram Vanderborght. “First, they are made of a self-repairing material and don’t need to be replaced in the event of perforations or cracks. Second, they are self-closing, which means the compressors have to deliver significantly less suction and therefore consume much less energy. Finally, they are also fully recyclable.”
“In this project, we will work with industrial partners to rapidly integrate this technology into practice,” adds Simon Beckers, business developer at BruBotics. “Voxdale is a design bureau that will help us to produce the cups on a large scale. Hupico is an industrial integrator and will install the suction cups at five companies to test them out in a number of real-world applications.”
The self-healing material from which the suction cups are made was developed eight years ago by researcher Seppe Terryn in a unique collaboration between BruBotics and the Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science research group.
Beckers: “After putting years of effort into fundamental research, a range of applications can now be implemented in all kinds of social niches, and that is a great return on investment for the federal government.”
The recipients of the funding call were announced on 20 December in the presence of Belgium’s minister for Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal, Zakia Khattabi.
Simon Beckers: [email protected] +32 456 33 77 71