13 September 2023

The technological outcomes of MERGING have started to demonstrate their potential. Research partners, supported by the project’s integrators, have collaborated on delivering the project’s integrated robotic systems. Industrial integration and validation get underway for the food packaging, textiles and composites industries.

The consortium of the European project MERGING, coordinated by CEA, has tested its new intelligent robotic system for enhanced material handling through cost efficient robotized solutions.

The project has developed a series of technological modules for furnishing the robots with the abilities of perceiving flexible material deformations and managing their behavior within autonomous or collaborative scenarios. Now, the system is able to orchestrate numerous software and hardware modules, despite the sophistication of infrastructure that can be required for non-rigid workpiece handling. The partners have aimed on delivering tools for easy system programming and commissioning, using intuitive interfaces or teleoperation schemes.

As for the handling, pioneer gripping solutions by OMNIGRASP, LMS and OPTEAMUM have excelled in the manipulation of flexible packaging, garments, fiberglass composites, and composite core materials. These empower the deployment of pioneer handling strategies, by LMS, CEA and AIMEN, involving single or dual-arm robot manipulators. Depending on the industrial needs, the robotic solution can operate autonomously or collaborate with human operators by translating their handling actions into supportive actions.

The results from the three pre-pilot demonstrators initiate the last project phase

At this step, three integrated settings have been materialized in parallel, in three different countries.

The first one, located at AIMEN research facilities in Spain, focuses on the automation of lingerie manufacturing. The specifications deriving from the SELMARK industrial case drove the integration activities, involving dual arm manipulation through electro-adhesive (EA) grippers.

On the same basis, a demonstrator for the semi-automation of composites manufacturing has been established at LMS facilities, in Greece. LMS has conceptualized and materialized a pioneer system based on an overhead dual arm manipulator, sufficiently close to an industrial solution.

Finally, there is one additional experimental setting, supervised by CEA. Located at CEA LIST facilities, in France, the demonstrator deals with one industrial case of the food packaging industry. It also provided useful outcomes regarding important MERGING building blocks, proving the applicability of our project’s solutions on different application sectors.

The results have been obtained through joint activities between the technology developing partners. Collaborative workshops have delivered quality results and important insights for the upcoming activities. The partners are confident for the success of the next phase.

In overall, the project’s integration milestones and objectives are achieved and “we are ready to start industrial integration”, says the project’s steering committee.

MERGING is a four-year project coordinated by CEA (Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives) in France and it is involving academic and industrial partners from six countries: LMS (Greece), EPFL (Switzerland), AIMEN (Spain), SELMARK (Spain), VDL (Netherlands), Thimonnier (France), OMNIGRASP (Italy), IPC (France), CASP (Greece), and Opteamum (France).

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme under grant agreement No 869963