News Column

Patent Issued for Pick-Up and Delivery System and Associated Methods

August 20, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- From Alexandria, Virginia, VerticalNews journalists report that a patent by the inventors Rubatino, Fredrick T. (Tacoma, WA); Teodoro, Michael W. (Milton, WA), filed on June 8, 2011, was published online on August 5, 2014.

The patent's assignee for patent number 8793931 is Weyerhaeuser NR Company (Federal Way, WA).

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Modern agriculture, including silviculture, often requires planting of large numbers of substantially identical plants that are genetically tailored to grow optimally in a particular locale or to possess certain other desirable traits. Production of new plants by sexual reproduction can be slow and is often subject to genetic events resulting in variable traits in its progeny. As a result, asexual propagation has been shown to yield large numbers of genetically identical embryos for some species. Such embryos are typically further cultured under laboratory conditions until they mature into an autotrophic 'seedling' state characterized by an ability to produce their own food via photosynthesis, to resist desiccation, to produce roots able to penetrate soil, and to fend off soil microorganisms.

"Researchers have experimented in asexual propagation with the production of artificial seeds known as 'manufactured seeds.' Manufactured seeds typically include the following components: a seed shell, a synthetic gametophyte, and a plant embryo. A manufactured seed that does not contain a plant embryo is known in the industry as a 'seed blank.' The seed blank is typically a cylindrical capsule made from biodegradable plastic having an open end and a closed end. Manufactured seeds are produced by placing the synthetic gametophyte within the seed shell such that it substantially fills the interior of the seed shell. A longitudinally extending hard porous insert, known in the industry as a 'cotyledon restraint,' may be centrally located within the synthetic gametophyte. The cotyledon restraint includes a centrally located cavity extending partially through its length and is sized to receive the plant embryo. The plant embryo is approximately 4 to 7 millimeters in length and roughly 0.5 millimeters in diameter. The shape of the plant embryo is somewhat cylindrical, but is also irregular in cross-section and varies in diameter along its length. The plant embryo contains both a radicle (or root) end and a cotyledon end. The plant embryo is deposited into cavity of the cotyledon restraint oriented so that the cotyledon end is inserted first. Subsequently, the plant embryo is typically sealed within the seed shell using at least one end seal.

"Numerous types of plant embryo delivery systems have been used to transfer the plant embryo through the manufactured seed production line. Examples of such systems include U.S. Pat. No. 6,684,564, U.S. Pat. No. 7,207,139, and U.S. Pat. No. 7,603,807, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference. Although known systems have been effective in transporting plant embryos, problems are often encountered. For example, in some applications, embryos are hydrated to prevent damage from desiccation. These moist and sticky embryos often remain attached to plant embryo delivery systems and may be damaged during removal attempts. Even if the embryo is not damaged, sticking can also cause improper orientation or placement in the seed shell. Either scenario results in the possibility of wasting viable embryos, which is costly in commercial applications.

"Thus, there is a need in the industry to develop new systems and methods for plant embryo pick-up and delivery. Ideally such systems will be suitable for transferring a viable embryo through a manufactured seed production line with minimized sticking to the components and/or damage to the embryo."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The following summary is provided for the benefit of the reader only and is not intended to limit in any way the invention as set forth by the claims. The present disclosure is directed generally towards material handling systems, and particularly to pick-up and delivery systems for use with plant embryos.

"In some embodiments, the present disclosure relates to a pick-up and delivery system including a pick-up assembly and a delivery assembly. The pick-up assembly includes a robotic arm, a pick-up device rotatably mounted on the robotic arm, and a first vacuum pressure supply port operably connected to the pick-up device. The delivery assembly includes an insertion device and a second vacuum pressure supply port. The insertion device may include an insertion member and a release assistance rod arranged inside the insertion member. The release assistance rod is moveable between an extended position and a retracted position. When the release assistance rod is in the extended position, it extends beyond the proximal end of the insertion member.

"Further aspects are directed towards methods for grasping and releasing an object with the pick-up and delivery system. In some embodiments, such methods include the steps of moving the pick-up device to a first location to grasp the object and supplying a first vacuum pressure to the tip opening of the pick-up device. The pick-up device and the object may then be moved to a second location. The object may be transferred from the pick-up device to the insertion member by supplying a second vacuum pressure to the insertion member and removing the first vacuum pressure while the release assistance rod is in the retracted position. The insertion member and the object may then be moved to the second position so that the object is located above a receptacle. The object may be inserted into the receptacle by removing the second vacuum pressure and moving the release assistance rod to the extended position."

For additional information on this patent, see: Rubatino, Fredrick T.; Teodoro, Michael W.. Pick-Up and Delivery System and Associated Methods. U.S. Patent Number 8793931, filed June 8, 2011, and published online on August 5, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Robotics, Machine Learning, Emerging Technologies, Weyerhaeuser NR Company.

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Source: Journal of Engineering

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