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Project Reference: ITP/012/23LP
Project Title: Soft Material Handling Using Reinforcement Learning
Hosting Institution: LSCM R&D Centre (LSCM)
Abstract: Recycle Textile technologies are leapfrogging in recent years. In particular, the
hydrothermal separation process, developed by HKRITA, is under immense attention and
moving in fast paces.
The hydrothermal separation process is similar to industrial laundry services. Hence,
laundry machines (e.g. washing machines and tumble dryers) with modifications to resist
pressure and chemicals Equipment are used. Presently, the process is labour intensive.
Repetitive tasks of loading and unloading of recycle textiles into the machines may lead
to fatigue and less efficient. The working conditions are relatively harsh (e.g. humid and
high temperature). It leads to labour shortage and aging labours. Hence, a mobile
multiple degree-of-freedoms robotic device that is able to handle soft objects with such
repetitive tasks laundry is proposed to ease the problems.
In this project, a mobile robot carrying a multiple degree-of-freedoms (dof) robotic arm,
namely “Robovator”, is proposed. The robovator aims to carrying out loading and
unloading tasks of soft and irregular objects in-and-out of the Green Machine. i.e. it
performs a hydrothermal (separation) process of recycled textiles/garments. The
research scopes are therefore:-
1. To research and develop a compliant robot arm and an end-effector to handle soft
and irregular objects. A bio-inspired (cuttle fish alike design) force sensing and compliant
feedback gripper is designed to grasp soft and irregular objects.
2. To research and develop a novel robot vision/imaging technique using
Reinforcement Learning (RL). A reward function is used to train the RL model in realtime.
3. System integration and implementation
A robovator will be constructed whilst the RL model will be implemented into the
Robovator. HKRITA will provide a test site for the trails.
This project may be a build block to join a future project to develop a smart storage
system for recycle textiles/garments between LSCM and HKRITA.
Project Coordinator: Dr Ka Lun FAN
Approved Funding Amount: HK$ 2.79 M
Project Period: 31 Mar 2023 - 30 Sep 2024
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