Collaborating Authors

6 innovative robotic grippers lend a helping hand


OnRobot introduced new robotic grippers at Automatica 2018, including the Tactile gripper. With the collaborative robot market exploding, robotic grippers will be an area of growth and increasing competition. That was made abundantly clear at Automatica 2018 where new robotic grippers made quite a splash. While market growth has an impact on the amount of innovation taking place, Lasse Kieffer, CEO and co-founder of Purple Robotics, said a shift in mindset is also leading to new robotic grippers. "End users want a collaborative robot application.

A new robotic gripper inspired by geckos and pioneered by NASA


Hands are hot items in the world of robots. That's one of the biggest trends out of the Automatica conference, one of the world's premiere showcases of robot technology, which recently wrapped up in Germany. Among this year's dexterous, grippy offerings is a robotic end effector inspired by a gecko's fingers. Geckos can scale vertical and inverted surfaces thanks to microscopic flaps on their feet. The flaps form molecular bonds with the surfaces of objects, and the weak intermolecular forces create adhesion.

A lizard-inspired robot gripper may solve our space-junk problems


Space junk is a huge problem in orbit. Over 500,000 pieces of debris are currently orbiting the Earth at up to 17,500 miles per hour, and we haven't yet figured out how to clean it up. But engineers at Stanford may have made a breakthrough: They've designed a robotic gripper based on gecko's feet that works in zero-g. The end goal is to use it to clean up space junk. The problem with existing technology is that everything is designed to work at Earth's gravity, within Earth's temperature range.

Octopus-inspired robotic gripper handles delicate produce


A new robotic end effector inspired by the movement and flexibility of octopus tentacles is being tested for full-scale implementation at salad and produce packager Taylor Farms Pacific in Tracy, CA. Comprising soft robotic "fingers," the new gripper tool is the first to be able to handle items as delicate as a cherry tomato and then immediately pick up an item of a different size, shape, and weight, without tool changeover or reprogramming. "This is the most exciting project I've worked on in my career," says Alan Applonie, President of Taylor Farms Pacific. "What's different about soft robotics is the actual fingers, the grippers, that go on the end of the arm, that are now able to handle and manage strawberries and other delicate fruits and vegetables without damage. It actually looks like you detached an arm off a robot and put octopus fingers on the end of it."

A robot with a firm yet gentle grasp


One characteristic that allows us to perform a variety of tasks is the ability to alter the firmness of our grip, and University at Buffalo engineers have developed a two-fingered robotic hand that shares this trait. The design of the robotic hand enables it to absorb energy from impacts during collisions. This prevents whatever the robot is holding from breaking, and also makes it safer for people to work with and near the machines. Such grippers would be a valuable asset for human-robot partnership in assembly lines in the automotive, electronic packaging and other industries, says Ehsan Esfahani, PhD, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Our robotic gripper mimics the human hand's ability to adjust the stiffness of the grip. These grippers are designed for collaborative robots that work together with people," Esfahani says.