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Handling systems for flexible materials (RIA)

In order to automate production processes involving soft and flexible materials, Proposals need to cover both of the following areas:

  • Innovative technologies for the handling of the soft and flexible materials such as gripping, moving, positioning, sorting, joining etc. so that it can be included in larger automated production processes. Low-cost and universal dexterity are key concepts;
  • System solutions that can manage all product and material related data (size, shape, weight, colour, material composition, defects, etc.), so that their automated handling can be embedded in larger production and process management systems.

Activities should start at TRL 4 and achieve TRL 6 at the end of the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The handling of soft materials with the involvement of robots remains limited. The control systems of the robot need to be very sensitive, accurate and fast to prevent unwanted irreversible deformations and damages. Further research is needed in order to develop handling devices which are not pre-programmed for one specific task, but are intelligent and universally dexterous.

Future robots will have to be able to handle soft products while controlling their level of deformation, e.g. in situations where the objects are being manipulated with multiple contact points. Low-cost robots are essential. New handling technologies for flexible materials will lead to disruptive innovations in textile, paper and food processing, and will support a widespread implementation, in particular by SMEs.

  • Demonstrating the potential to bring back production to Europe;
  • 15% increase in OECD Job Quality Index through work environment and safety improvement;
  • 20% increase in productivity.

Relevant indicators and metrics, with baseline values, should be clearly stated in the proposal.