Programmable Parts Feeder (25111)

The invention is a vibratory device that programmably conveys, sorts, orients, and feeds multiple parts simultaneously, in parallel. To the best of our knowledge, it is the only commercially viable vibratory device that can perform this variety of functions without large numbers of actuators in an actuator array.

The invention uses vibration of a rigid horizontal plate on which parts rest. The vibration of the plate effectively creates a force field on the plate, and parts on the plate move according to this force field. The force at a point on the plate is due to the three-dimensional motion of that point and the friction force between the part and the plate. The plate can be vibrated with as little as 1 degree of freedom (e.g., rotation about a fixed axis) or with up to a full six (6) degrees of freedom. As the number of freedom is increased, the variety of force fields that can be implemented by the plate increases.

Figure 1 illustrates a top view of the force field created for a plate vibrating with just one (1) degree of freedom, rotating about a horizontal axis just below the plate. In this case, parts converge to the centerline just above the rotation axis. Only one mechanical actuator is needed. This force field is used to convey and orient a large part in prototypes shown in Figure 1a Movie Clip select "whirlpool.avi" and Figure 1b Movie Clip select "three_step_ mate.avi".

Best Automation Paper Award at the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Rome, Italy.

Best Student Paper Award -- the only award given at the 2008 Robotics Science and Systems conference in Zurich, Switzerland.

See Assembly Magazine article (Dec 19, 2007) for a discussion of the invention.

Multiple parts can be moved simultaneously in different directions, based on vision feedback. This allows parts to be sorted in parallel.
"Sink" force fields can be used to position and orient parts without the use of sensors. Force fields can be designed for different parts by altering the vibratory motion. Conveyors can be built which both convey parts linearly and eliminate uncertainty in their orientation as they move. Two parts can be mated or aligned, then transported while being "squeezed" together. Many of these applications require as few as two (2) actuated freedoms of motion (degrees of freedom).

STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT: A one-degree of freedom device is demonstrated at Figure 1a Movie Clip select "whirlpool.avi" and Figure 1b Movie Clip select "three_step_mate.avi", and a six degree-of-freedom device is under construction. Northwestern seeks a licensing partner to commercialize this invention.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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