Bridgestone started to prove the concept of hand piece soft robot picking in logistics sites to market soft robot business

Bridgestone started to prove the concept of hand piece soft robot picking in logistics sites to market soft robot business

  • Bridgestone Corporation announced that it has started a PoC program to use soft robot hands to automatically perform part picking at logistics sites.
  • Bridgestone will endeavor to achieve small-scale commercialization of its soft robotics business through co-creation with several partners during the next Medium Term Business Plan (2024-2026).
  • By supporting the lives of all individuals through the power of rubber with soft robotics, Bridgestone will deliver “Empowerment: Committed to contributing to a society that ensures access and dignity for all” from its “Bridgestone E8 Commitment”.

Tokyo (November 28, 2022) Bridgestone Corporation (Bridgestone) announced today that it has begun a proof-of-concept (PoC) to use flexible robot hands to automatically perform the part-picking process, the process of picking and moving individual items, at logistics sites. Looking into the future, the company will strive to achieve small-scale commercialization of soft robotics business through joint creation with several partners during the next medium-term business plan (2024-2026).

With Bridgestone’s soft robotics business aiming to support the lives of all individuals through the power of rubber, Bridgestone strives to fulfill its corporate commitment to “Empowerment: Committed to contributing to a society that ensures access and dignity for all” described in the “Bridgestone E8 Commitment”.*1

Photo of a soft robot picking blocks

Photo of a soft robot picking blocks

Bridgestone’s soft robotics business presents a new challenge in its diversified product range to support the safe navigation and movement of people and objects. Leveraging on its core competencies “Mastering Rubber” and “Mastering Road Contact”, and leveraging tire and hose development and production expertise, Bridgestone develops rubber actuators (industrial rubber muscles) to explore new business models to commercialize. Bridgestone rubber actuators are flexible, impact resistant, light weight and high strength. By leveraging these characteristics, the company thus aims to help address social and customer issues such as labor shortages and demand for offline interactions by automating various tasks that currently require human hands, with soft robotic arms and hands.

In July 2022, Bridgestone initiated a PoC along with wholesalers of daily necessities and many items, robot manufacturers, and other partners where soft robot hands equipped with Bridgestone rubber actuators are used to automate part picking processes in logistics warehouses. It is difficult for a single traditional robot to pick up objects of different shapes, hardness levels, and weights, such as tubes, bottles, and bags, so picking out pieces automatically with robots is a difficult problem. Meanwhile, a single robotic hand, fitted with Bridgestone rubber actuators, is capable of achieving a “just right” grip for many objects. The company will continue to move forward with PoC with its partners in pursuit of rapid practical implementation of soft robotic hands for logistics part-picking applications.

Norikazu Otoyama, General Manager, Soft Robotics Business Preparation Office, provides the following comment regarding PoC initiation.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that co-creation forms the basis for all exploration work in Bridgestone (new companies). I believe that gaining understanding from our partners regarding our business to create social value and new customers and starting a PoC at the partner site is a big step forward in the soft robotics business From the perspective of a declining birth rate, an aging population, and the need to avoid contact between people due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing demand for automation in areas where people work, which is drawing attention to soft robots that can cooperate with people through its work in In the tire business, Bridgestone has continued to support the mobility of people and things from A to Z. With its legacy in the tire industry, we look forward to creating new value with many partners through our soft robotics business in the future.”

Bridgestone has made its recycling business, soft robotics business, and guayule business an exploratory business, and is exploring technology and business models in new areas where its core competencies can be leveraged for sustainable future growth. Moreover, the company seeks to nurture entrepreneurs through new undertakings and exploratory businesses are areas where talents with an entrepreneurial spirit come together. Also in the field of soft robotics, talents aspiring to create new businesses from scratch are developing projects not constrained by previous agreements as an in-house project with the aim of quickly commercializing the soft robotics business. Bridgestone will continue to develop business exploration as a means of giving diverse talent a variety of opportunities to excel.

For more information about Bridgestone’s soft robots, please refer to the following website.

*1 The Bridgestone Group has established its corporate commitment, the “Bridgestone E8 Commitment”, to help it achieve its vision: “Towards 2050, Bridgestone continues to deliver social and customer value as a sustainable solutions company.” This commitment will serve as the focus of the group to lead the management while earning the trust of future generations. The “Bridgestone E8 Commitment” consists of eight Bridgestone-like values ​​beginning with the letter “E” (Energy, Environment, Efficiency, Expansion, Economy, Passion, Ease, and Empowerment) that the Group will commit to creating through Bridgestone-like purposes and operations, along with employees and community, partners and customers to help achieve a sustainable society.

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