Oct 262010
 

The universal gripper writing with a pen (Image: John Amend, Cornell University)

While creating robotic grippers to pick up objects that are all the same shape and consistency is relatively easy, difficulties arise when trying to create one versatile enough to handle a wider variety of objects.

The flexibility of the human hand has led many robotics researchers to borrow the familiar four finger and opposable thumb template that has served us so well, but getting the robotic hand to exert enough force to grip a variety of objects without breaking the more fragile ones is still a difficult task. For this reason a team of researchers has bypassed the traditional human hand and fingers design to create a versatile gripper using everyday coffee grounds and a latex party balloon.

Called the universal gripper, instead of being designed to pick up a particular object the device conforms to the object it is grabbing. The gripper, which is attached to a robotic arm, consists of an everyday party balloon filled with ground coffee. The coffee-filled balloon presses down and deforms around the object to be picked up, and then a vacuum sucks the air out of the balloon to solidify the grip on the object. When the vacuum is released, the balloon becomes soft again and the gripper lets go of the object.

While creating robotic grippers to pick up objects that are all the same shape and consistency is relatively easy, difficulties arise when trying to create one versatile enough to handle a wider variety of objects. The flexibility of the human hand has led many robotics researchers to borrow the familiar four finger and opposable thumb template that has served us so well, but getting the robotic hand to exert enough force to grip a variety of objects without breaking the more fragile ones is still a difficult task. For this reason a team of researchers has bypassed the traditional human hand and fingers design to create a versatile gripper using everyday coffee grounds and a latex party balloon.

Called the universal gripper, instead of being designed to pick up a particular object the device conforms to the object it is grabbing. The gripper, which is attached to a robotic arm, consists of an everyday party balloon filled with ground coffee. The coffee-filled balloon presses down and deforms around the object to be picked up, and then a vacuum sucks the air out of the balloon to solidify the grip on the object. When the vacuum is released, the balloon becomes soft again and the gripper lets go of the object.

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