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mechanical engineering

MSc. assignment: mechanical design of a flexure-based gripper for agro-robotics

Start: In alignment with student

Education: ME  

Education level: MSc (WO)

Location: Enschede


The company

Demcon is a high-end technology supplier of products and systems, with focus areas in high-tech, industrial systems & vision, optomechatronic, robotic and medical systems. Demcon supports clients with a wide range of competencies. As a system supplier, Demcon can meet the entire needs of its clients, from proof of principle, prototype and pre-production to serial production.


The project

Harvesting vegetables and fruits is still largely done by hand. It is increasingly difficult to find workers to harvest apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers in high temperature and under harsh working conditions. To guarantee a sustainable future for Dutch greenhouses and orchards, robots may be of aid. However, robotic gripping and handling of vegetables and fruits is a challenging task due to the size variability, delicacy and softness of the produce in combination with the required handing speed and dirty environment. Underactuated flexure-based grippers might tackle these stringent demands due to their cleanability, intrinsic ‘softness’ and shape adaptability. They are furthermore predictable in nature, allowing for high fidelity contact force sensing and actuation.

Problem statement:

Currently, novel flexure-based grippers with integrated force sensors are under development at Precision Engineering group of the University of Twente in collaboration with its industrial partner Demcon. The initial gripper designs confirm the opportunity of such deterministic flexure-based grippers. The pose and strain measurements of these grippers give high fidelity information of the gripping state (interaction force, partial or full grip) and object (weight, stiffness, and shape). However, the full potential of these grippers is not shown in a real-life use case.


The assignment

During this assignment, you will apply and adapt this novel gripping design principle to the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. To this end, the gripper mechanics, sensors and controls will be designed and integrated with a robotic platform. By completing such a full design iteration, the applicability of this idea will be shown for the first time, while yielding valuable information for further improvement. The objective of this assignment is to design the mechanics of the gripper. The design should comply with the findings of current research to the control regarding pick and place, sensing and gripping strategies.


(Possible) Subgoals:

  • Systematic determination of the requirement for harvesting vegetables and fruits
  • Design of a flexure-based gripper with integrated sensing for a selected use case
  • Integration with robotic system for (blind) pick and place test
  • Testing and validation


We are offering:

  • Societal relevant and scientifically challenging assignment
  • Collaboration within a larger research consortium (Flexcraft, e.g WUR, TU Delft an several companies)
  • Hands-on application of design of flexure-gripper and control
  • a direct day-to-day technical supervisor
  • a market-based internship fee


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