Commandia by Inescop: collaborative robotics take a step forward

The project wins the technological challenge represented by the collaborative robotic mobile manipulation of deformable objects in industrial applications, including footwear

The automation of the handling and processing of deformable and flexible products is an important technological challenge, which up until today had no reliable robotic solution. Many tasks involving these kinds of products are in fact performed manually, and with difficulty (since they are uncomfortable), while even posing a risk to human operators (because of repetitive or non-ergonomic movements for the joints, or handling dangerous objects like knives, or manipulating hot parts or toxic products like glues or paints). To overcome this impasse, Inescop, the centre for technology and innovation of the Spanish company in Elda, has developed the Commandia project in collaboration with Sigma Clermont and a pool of Zaragoza, Alicante and Coimbra universities, with the aim of developing a technology for collaborative robotic mobile manipulation in different industrial applications, from the fashion industry (footwear, leather goods, and apparel), to the food industry.

In the footwear industry, Commandia allows for significant improvement with regards to competitiveness and work conditions: the system for manipulating flexible materials with collaborative robotics and artificial vision is decisive when applying the soles of shoes for example. Deformable objects with a high aesthetic value must accordingly be handled by robots: so, Commandia uses a multirobot system that delicately manipulates the soles through electrical pincers, preventing damage to the surfaces. Thanks to this multivision system, robots are capable of manipulating and positioning the soles with high precision, while adapting them to a complex surface. The use of two simultaneous robots, in a way that is coordinated and based on shared visual information, has always represented a real technological challenge: the excellent technological ability of Inescop and the other partners of the Commandia project opens up the possibility of applying the functionalities of collaborative robotics not only to the footwear industry, but also to other industries.