Contact-less manipulation of millimeter-scale objects via ultrasonic levitation

by   Jared Nakahara, et al.

Although general purpose robotic manipulators are becoming more capable at manipulating various objects, their ability to manipulate millimeter-scale objects are usually very limited. On the other hand, ultrasonic levitation devices have been shown to levitate a large range of small objects, from polystyrene balls to living organisms. By controlling the acoustic force fields, ultrasonic levitation devices can compensate for robot manipulator positioning uncertainty and control the grasping force exerted on the target object. The material agnostic nature of acoustic levitation devices and their ability to dexterously manipulate millimeter-scale objects make them appealing as a grasping mode for general purpose robots. In this work, we present an ultrasonic, contact-less manipulation device that can be attached to or picked up by any general purpose robotic arm, enabling millimeter-scale manipulation with little to no modification to the robot itself. This device is capable of performing the very first phase-controlled picking action on acoustically reflective surfaces. With the manipulator placed around the target object, the manipulator can grasp objects smaller in size than the robot's positioning uncertainty, trap the object to resist air currents during robot movement, and dexterously hold a small and fragile object, like a flower bud. Due to the contact-less nature of the ultrasound-based gripper, a camera positioned to look into the cylinder can inspect the object without occlusion, facilitating accurate visual feature extraction.


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