Weekly Ecommerce Automation articles, videos and tips by Marcus Schappi.

↘️ Automatically Dispensing Products

Published on 9 Jan 2020

Background

In our research, we have identified a picking method that utilises gravity to dispense boxes of pharmaceuticals.

The system uses an X/Y gantry and a manipulator to pick the product off of gravity-fed shelves and manipulate the product into a picking bucket also held by the gantry.

Aim

The aim of this experiment is to see if simple servo actuators situated on shelving could be used to dispense the product, moving the complexity away from the gantry and onto stationary shelving.

Method

  • A servo will be attached to a U-Shaped profile (PVC guttering) and used to manipulate a product out of a slot.
  • A section will be cut out of the profile to enable the horn to push the product out of the profile.
  • Brass standoffs will be used to prevent the product from falling out of the profile.
  • An Arduino connected to a computer will be used to control the servo.

Actuating “finger” from the top

Image of the servo from the side

Results

We found that it was possible to manipulate light objects out of the profile using a $5 servo. This would work with the vast majority of Little Bird Electronics products.

We did find we had issues when there were lots of heavy products stacked.

In some instances, the servo did not have enough power to manipulate the products from the slot. In other instances, incorrect quantities would be dispensed.

Decreasing the angle of the slot lowered the amount weight the servo has to bare.

An XY gantry would also get around this issue.

Next Steps

The servo based manipulation of products from shelving shows enough promise to build an initial multi-slot prototype around.