Two members of Universal Robots’ UR+ partner program have been nominated for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation (IERA) Awards by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

The IERA award is one of the most important distinctions in the world of robotics. It is jointly sponsored by the IFR and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS). The winner will be announced Dec. 9, during the IFR’s 52nd International Symposium on Robotics, which will be held online this year.

The nominees are the RG2-FT intelligent gripper from OnRobot and the high-resolution MotionCam-3D from PhotoNeo.

OnRobot’s RG2-FT is equipped with sensors that enable its fingers to feel objects like human fingers and therefore pick up delicate materials like thin glass vials and pass them to people. Photoneo’s MotionCam-3D is a 3D scanner for vision-guidance applications. It captures quick-moving objects even under sunlight.

“We are very impressed by the creativity that the participants of the IERA Award 2020 demonstrated,” says Milton Guerry, IFR president. “This year’s finalists yet again show great ingenuity put into practice: Both applications show how automation can further develop how humans and robots work together in industry.”

The RG2-FT is equipped with advanced proximity and force-torque sensors. The way it works can be compared to a person picking up a pencil with closed eyes: Proximity sensors “feel” the object until the grip is perfect. The gripper then doses its force precisely. It can pick up the object and safely pass it to a person, knowing to let go as it hands over the object.

The gripper can be used for a wide range of part sizes and shapes. A quick-change bracket makes it easy to change the gripper’s orientation. The control cable is supported through the bracket, so there’s no cable on the side eliminating the need to connect and disconnect when it’s time to change tools.

Features include safety shields, customizable fingertips, adjustable force and stroke, grip indicators, automatic depth compensation, automatic payload setting, and automatic tool center point calculation. Integrated safety buttons can stop gripper movement if a dangerous force level is reached.

“The gripper RG2-FT has the same fingertip sensibility as a human hand,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot. “Our gripper thus handles very delicate workpieces, such as thin glass or medical testing samples—even without knowing the exact location in a box.”

MotionCam-3D gives eyes to robots with the high resolution and accuracy.

“Our camera is able to inspect objects moving as fast as 140 kilometers per hour,” says Jan Zizka, CEO of Photoneo. “Its qualities are useful in various fields, such as e-commerce and logistics, for object sorting and autonomous delivery systems. The camera also helps in food processing and waste sorting as well as harvesting in agriculture. Thanks to accurate machine vision, robots can also analyze objects with high resolution images, which is important in quality control.”

Smart peripheral devices for cobots, like the IERA award finalists, lower the hurdles for small- and medium-sized companies to use robotics for automation. “A traditional industrial robots can easily be equipped with new tools to transform them into truly collaborative helpers,” says Guerry. “These small, plug-and-produce [devices] are ready for immediate use. No external programmers are needed, so the investment starts to pay off quickly.”

The UR+ program debuted in 2016 and has since grown to include more than 262 products and 301 companies. Under the program, suppliers of robotic peripheral devices, such as grippers, tool changers and vision systems, collaborate with Universal Robots to ensure that their products work seamlessly with Universal’s portfolio of collaborative robots. Products with UR+ certification have been tested and approved to work with UR’s cobots as plug-and-play technology, which simplifies programming and speeds deployment.