This paper describes an adaptable system which is able to perform manipulation operations (such as Peg-in-Hole or Laying-Down actions) with flexible objects. As such objects easily change their shape significantly during the execution of an action, traditional strategies, e. g., for solve path-planning problems, are often not applicable. It is therefore required to integrate visual tracking and shape reconstruction with a physical modeling of the materials and their deformations as well as action learning techniques. All these different submodules have been integrated into a demonstration platform, operating in real-time. Simulations have been used to bootstrap the learning of optimal actions, which are subsequently improved through real-world executions. To achieve reproducible results, we demonstrate this for casted silicone test objects of regular shape. Note to Practitioners-The aim of this work was to facilitate the setup of robot-based automation of delicate handling of flexible objects consisting of a uniform material. As examples, we have considered how to optimally maneuver flexible objects through a hole without colliding and how to place flexible objects on a flat surface with minimal introduction of internal stresses in the object. Given the material properties of the object, we have demonstrated in these two applications how the system can be programmed with minimal requirements of human intervention. Rather than being an integrated system with the drawbacks in terms of lacking flexibility, our system should be viewed as a library of new technologies that have been proven to work in close to industrial conditions. As a rather basic, but necessary part, we provide a technology for determining the shape of the object when passing on, e. g., a conveyor belt prior to being handled. The main technologies applicable for the manipulated objects are: A method for real-time tracking of the flexible objects during manipulation, a method formodel-based offline prediction of the static deformation of grasped, flexible objects and, finally, a method for optimizing specific tasks based on both simulated and real-world executions.
I E E E Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering, 2014, Vol 11, Issue 3, p. 749-765