Giving robots a sense of touch

15 February 2022

Tactaxis is a fully integrated tactile sensor, developed by Melexis, that is compact, soft and provides the 3D force vector acting on its surface. This improves robots’ hands and grippers, making delicate operations such as fruit picking possible. The technology is already successfully implemented in a functioning prototype.

The prototype features multiple 3D magnetometer pixels, using Melexis’ Triaxis technology. The sensor is accompanied by a magnet embedded into an elastomer material which presents a soft contact interface, emulating the attributes of human skin. The arrangement offers a high sensitivity so that detection of even small amounts of force will generate a response. The achieved force resolution is 2.7 mN which is enough to distinguish weight change of a fraction of a gram (~ 0.3 gram).

The gradiometric approach makes the sensor immune to magnetic stray fields which prevents potential measurement errors. It is also robust enough to cope with harsh conditions and temperature variations. 

“Robots need the sense of touch to manipulate fragile objects. For such applications, we have developed a novel magnetic sensor to accurately measure the contact force – while being robust against disturbances,” explained Gael Close, global innovation manager at Melexis. “By exploiting the capabilities of our Triaxis magnetic sensor technology, we have made a significant step forward in robot tactile sensors, providing a rugged and competitive multi-axis sensing solution. We will now use the Tactaxis prototype as the foundation for further development work.”

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