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Part clamping and fixture geometric adaptability for reconfigurable assembly systems.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is leading towards cyber-physical systems which justified research efforts in pursuing efficient production systems incorporating flexible grippers. Due to the complexity of assembly processes, reconfigurable assembly systems have received considerable attention in recent years. The demand for the intricate task and complicated operations, demands the need for efficient robotic manipulators that are required to manoeuvre and grasp objects effectively. Investigations were performed to understand the requirements of efficient gripping systems and existing gripping methods. A biologically inspired robotic gripper was investigated to establish conformity properties for the performance of a robotic gripper system. The Fin Ray Effect® was selected as a possible approach to improve effective gripping and reduce slippage of component handling with regards to pick and place procedures of assembly processes. As a result, the study established the optimization of self-adjusting end-effectors. The gripper system design was simulated and empirically tested. The impact of gripping surface compliance and geometric conformity was investigated. The gripper system design focused on the response of load applied to the conformity mechanism called the Fin Ray Effect®. The appendages were simulated to determine the deflection properties and stress distribution through a finite element analysis. The simulation proved that the configuration of rib structures of the appendages affected the conformity to an applied force representing an object in contact. The system was tested in real time operation and required a control system to produce an active performance of the system. A mass loading test was performed on the gripper system. The repeatability and mass handling range was determined. A dynamic operation was tested on the gripper to determine force versus time properties throughout the grasping movement for a pick and place procedure. The fluctuating forces generated through experimentation was related to the Lagrangian model describing forces experienced by a moving object. The research promoted scientific contribution to the investigation, analysis, and design of intelligent gripping systems that can potentially be implemented in the operational processes of on-demand production lines for reconfigurable assembly systems.


Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2017.