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Soft robotic gripper gets a grasp on fragile objects using electroadhesion

by • February 1, 2016 • No Comments

Building machines which replicate the delicate touch of a human hand is a difficult mission which has seen the createment of all kinds of soft robotic grippers, of squishy green blobs to boa constrictor-inspired claws. Scientists are now claiming an significant advance in this area, demonstrating a robotic device which can advantageous grasp fragile objects through the assist of electroadhesion, the quite same phenomenon which sees balloons cling to ceilings after being rubbed on your hair.

Led by Jun Shintake, a doctoral student at Swiss research institute EPFL, the scientists set out to create a soft gripper which may act much like the thumb and index finger on a human hand. They created flaps consisting of five layers: a pre-stretched elastomer in the middle with two layers of electrodes on either side, and and so two layers of silicone on the outer.

In its normal say, these flaps curl outwards. But when an electrical current is delivered the attraction between the electrodes draws them together in an action the researchers say mimics muscle flexion. But the real clincher for this type of robotic gripper is its electrostatic field, created possible by the interlocking electrodes at the tips of the flaps.

When it came to testing out the device, the researchers were able-bodied to use it to pick up fragile items such as an egg, water balloon or paper. One of the claimed advantages over other soft grippers is its skill to handle delicate objects with no prior knowledge of their shape. Rather, the flaps gently conform to the surface, with the electroadhesive affect assisting it in carrying items 80 times its own mass.

Whilst the researchers say this is the initially time electroadhesion has been combined with soft robotics, a startup called Grabit has in fact been serving electroadhesive grippers to customers for warehouse automation and box handling since 2013, and actually experimenting with drone deliquite.

Describing their adaptation as lightmass and scaleable-bodied, yet, the EPFL researchers have high hopes for their gripper, claiming the create may one day see them utilized in missions to collect space debris, food handling applications and high end prosthetic hands.

You can see the gripper at work in the video at a lower place.

Source: EPFL

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