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Diaphragm-type pneumatic-driven soft grippers for precision harvesting

Soft actuator technology and its role in robotic manipulation have been rapidly gaining ground. However, less attention has been given to the potential advantages of its application to the agricultural sector, where soft robotics may be a game changer due to its greater adaptability, lower cost and simplicity of manufacture. This article presents a new design approach for soft grippers based on modules that incorporate the concept of bellows and combine it with the versatility and replicability of a 3D printed structure. In this way, the modules can be freely configured to obtain grippers adaptable to crops of different diameters. Furthermore, the definition of a method to determine the soft grippers features is also presented, with the aim of serving as the basis for a future benchmarking study on soft actuators. The experimental tests carried out demonstrated the feasibility and capability of the end-effectors to manipulate various fruits, ensuring a sufficient contact area for the safe handling of the targets and avoiding damaging the products.

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