Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Special MAE Seminar

The Development of a Fast Pick-and-Place Robot with an Innovative Cylindrical Drive


Prof. Jorge Angeles

Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University

Abstract: The food-processing industry is calling for ever faster means for the packaging of poultry and other edibles, which has motivated the development of fast pick-and-place robots. The tasks at hand usually comprise motions involving the subgroup of Schoenflies displacements. These are characterized by three independent translations and one rotation about an axis of fixed orientation. Commercial robots of this kind are available, e.g., Adept’s Quattro and ABB’s Flexpicker. The architecture of these robots stems from that of the Delta, designed to produce three independent translations of its moving plate within a parallel architecture. The challenge these systems face is the need to provide a 180-deg turn of their moving platform, which is impeded by their parallel architecture. Both the Quattro and the Flexpicker are supplied with ingenious mechanisms to produce this rotation, but the mechanism adds a substantial complexity to the overall system. As an alternative, a family of simple, isostatic architectures was proposed recently by two Taiwanese researchers. These architectures include two limbs, each carrying a cylindrical shoulder, which is actuated, and ending by screw nuts coupled to each forearm by means of a universal joint. A rod that carries two screws of distinct pitches in series, and carries the gripper at one end, plays the role of the moving platform of parallel robots. The rod is moved with four degrees of freedom in a similar fashion to the long peppermill seen in Italian restaurants, with the two screw nuts playing the role of the waiter’s hands.

Moreover, each shoulder is driven by one collar that undergoes cylindrical motion (rotation about an axis and translation along a direction parallel to the axis), the challenge here being the design of the drive that can provide the two degrees of freedom of a cylindrical motion. Such a drive, dubbed the C-drive and developed at McGill University, is actuated by two identical motors that are fixed to the base, and carries a closed kinematic chain that was synthesized by means of an application of the theory of displacement subgroups.

One instance of the Taiwanese architecture is currently being developed at McGill University, with one C-drive per arm. The principles of operation of the robot and its main components are highlighted in this presentation.

Short Bio: Prof. Angeles received his PhD from Stanford University in 1973 and has been on faculty of McGill University since 1984 where he is the James McGill Professor of Mechanical Engineering and is affiliated with the Centre for Intelligent Machines. He has authored or co-authored various books in the areas of kinematics and dynamics of mechanical systems as well as numerous technical papers on the subject. His research interests focus on the theoretical and computational aspects of multibody mechanical systems for purposes of design and control. Prof. Angeles is also a consultant to various Canadian and international organizations in the areas of automation, mechanical design, and robotics. He is a fellow of ASME and the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering, a Senior Member of the IEEE, and a Past President of IFToMM,. He has held visiting positions at Aachen Institute of Technology (Germany), Technical University of Munich (Germany) and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore).

If you need more information about Prof. Angeles visit please contact the host: Professors Bahram Ravani 304-3095 (

Date(s) - 05/13/2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

1065 Kemper Hall


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