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Ubiros Brings gentle, modular grippers to robotic handling

In the world of robotic grasping, the quest for a reliable yet delicate touch has long proven challenging. Traditional rigid grippers often lack the necessary sensitivity, while soft robotic approaches frequently rely on bulky pneumatics or complex coding. However, a startup called Ubiros Inc. believes it has found the solution in its electrically driven and modular soft grippers designed for easy deployment.



Founded by Onder Ondemir, a professor at Northeastern University and a lifelong lover of robotic technology, Ubiros emerged from groundbreaking collaborative research into soft robotics at institutions like MIT, Harvard, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Dissatisfied with the limitations of pneumatic systems – imprecise control, high power consumption, and compressor equipment – Ondemir and his team sought an innovative alternative.

"We knew the limitations of pneumatics – precision is low, control is hard, and the equipment needed to generate compressed air uses a lot of electricity," Ondemir explained. "After spending years in the lab, one day, [my co-founder] came to me and said, 'Onder, I think I have groundbreaking technology for packaging and gripping in general, but I don't want to run the company.' Becoming the CEO was a no-brainer to fulfill my desire to build machines."

At the core of Ubiros' solution is a cable-driven system reminiscent of human tendons, enabling individual finger actuation via electric servo motors. This patented design maintains softness for grasping while providing rigidity against twisting or bending. The company offers various models, from the modular Gentle Flex for custom gripper builds to the ready-made Gentle Duo with two fingers and the Gentle Pro with four. Force control, part sensing, and low-power modes are available with the Touch variants.

The benefits of Ubiros' electric grippers are multifold. Eliminating pneumatic tubes, valves, and compressors simplifies deployment and reduces energy consumption – a significant advantage for battery-powered mobile manipulators. Quick repositioning without air pressure buildup enables faster grasping cycles. And with instant torque delivery, these grippers can handle heavy payloads with ease.

While suction cups excel at similar-item picking, Ubiros' grippers bring unique capabilities for singulating objects from clutter, grasping porous or fragile items, and operating in tight spaces. Their inherent compliance allows secure yet gentle handling, crucial for delicate goods like fresh produce, baked items, and meat products.

"In farming, crops are being left to rot in the field, which is a huge waste," Ondemir noted. "A key barrier to getting automation is handling food with a soft touch. But the real problem we're solving is the worker shortage."

Looking ahead, Ubiros aims to make its grippers more hygienic and robust for food handling certifications. Pilots are underway with major robotics firms like Mitsubishi for diverse grasping applications managed through familiar teach pendants. The company, now a resident at MassRobotics, also envisions integrating its grippers with mobile manipulators and leveraging their data collection capabilities for predictive maintenance through AI/ML models.

"Down the road a few years, we want to focus more on the data side, allowing customers to access data through the end effectors," said Ondemir. "We plan to eventually bring other patented technologies into the workplace – 3D sensors, haptic gloves, human-in-the-loop systems, remote manipulation, and soft arms."

With a radically different approach to robotic grasping, Ubiros is not just tackling the agricultural labor crisis but opening new frontiers for safe, efficient handling across industries. As the startup continues innovating at the intersection of soft robotics and adaptable actuation, its "gentle" grippers could soon become an indispensable tool for automation.

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