YuMi, The Robot That Handles Macarons With 3D Printed Grippers


Robots delicate enough to handle macarons and Kinder Surprise Eggs? This assembly-line android has your back.

ABB specializes in automation technologies, so it is no surprise they are also masters of 3D printing. Their latest creation YuMi, which stands for “You and Me,” was featured at Expo Milano‘s 2015’s Future Food District. With 3D Printed, customizable grippers for hands, the robot is able to handle all kinds of different materials and projects.

YuMi‘s claim to fame is the ability to “handle fragile objects, or those with uneven surfaces, or complex shapes,” which it does with seeming ease. This is almost entirely thanks to its 3D printed pneumatic grippers from Materalise, a company that specializes in additive manufacturing. Originally designed to assemble smart parts for electronics, YuMi is now at home dishing out macarons, apples, and Kinder Surprise Eggs. While most robots don’t do so well with soft objects, its YuMi’s grippers that sets it apart. They offer the unique texture and strength to be both practical and easy to manufacture. Thanks to the versatility of 3D printing, YuMi can be used in many different scenarios.

While the current build is great for handling fruit, the design could easily be changed and printed. The fingers are also printed separately from the hands, making it easy to upgrade (or completely alter) the robot. The grippers can be redesigned to feature interlocking hands, or an extended finger for security.

The cookie-friendly robot (Image: Materialise)
The cookie-friendly robot (Image: Materialise)

It took several iterations to get YuMi’s hands just right. Earlier versions suffered over time, as the material slowly lost flexibility in the fingers. Now, they’ve settled on TPU 92A-1, which combines flexibility with the strength needed to repeatedly complete arduous tasks. ABB engineers also found a way to make YuMi’s hands hinge-free. The hands now operate by vacuum, meaning they require little maintenance, are easier to replace and less likely to squash your any delicate macarons.

YuMi crosses the gap between printing in the lab, and printing for the general populace. They give a small glimpse into what some of the greatest minds are doing behind closed doors, and how new tech may be showing up in our daily lives sometimes in the future.