Industrial Robotics

Robots aren't packing your lunch yet: The dexterity challenges for industrial robots

By Financial Times

Aug 28, 2017

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It turns out it is remarkably hard to automate the bento lunchbox.

Making a bento — little portions of rice, fish, meat, pickles and other delicacies packed in a plastic box and sold in Japan for a few hundred yen — is currently a miserable job done by hand on grim midnight production lines.

“The thing we at Yaskawa Electric are wrestling with now is the convenience store lunch,” explains Akira Kumagae, head of motion control at Japan’s number two maker of factory robots. “We think maybe this is our next business chance.”

Tofu or vegetables are soft and irregularly shaped. “(T)o pick up a single bean with chopsticks and put it in — that’s tough even for a human,” says Kumagae. “There are so many things that robots still can’t do.”

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