SWITL Moving Sol-Gel Materials While Preserving Their Shape
At FOOMA JAPAN 2011, Furukawa Kikou demonstrated SWITL, a pick-up and conveyor system using unique technology.
SWITL scoops up and moves materials in a sol or gel state, without them losing their shape. The demo used a compact robot hand, to scoop up and transport complicated forms resembling a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise.
"Until now, it generally wasn't possible to transport materials in a sol-gel state. We've developed this machine as a tool for sales promotion, by demonstrating the handling of actual materials."
"The SWITL sheet is wrapped around a sliding plate, and it's fixed at one side, while the plate moves. So items can be loaded and unloaded without altering relative positions. Currently, the sheet is made of Teflon, but we think we can achieve the same performance using other materials for the sheet."
One application for this technology is filling trays with sliced meat, without the meat changing shape. It's possible to fold both edges of the sliced meat inward before filling a tray. This enables meat processing stages from slicing to tray packing to be automated, which wasn't possible before.
There's also a high-speed handling version of SWITL. This enables sol-gel dough products to be handled on a production line without stopping the conveyor.
"When a liquid refill pouch is picked or suctioned up, the liquid collects at the bottom. This makes the bottom bulge, and the pouch loses its shape. So sometimes, you can't fit the specified number of pouches in a box. By placing the pouches in the box horizontally, it's possible to arrange them automatically, even if they wouldn't fit in before."
"We're a small business, so we don't intend to deal directly with companies overseas. If we find a partner willing to sell this technology, we'd like to talk about business possibilities."