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Origami Gripper is great for soft and heavy objects

The robot arms are fascinating devices that have great speed and precision when performing their tasks. They are also capable of carrying large loads, and a complete industrial robot operating at maximum speed is a sight to behold. But while it is easy to design grippers to move strong metal objects, it may be much more difficult to pick up delicate or soft objects. A team at MIT CSAIL has worked on a solution to this problem, which they call the Origami gripper.

The gripper is very capable of lifting objects with complex shapes.

The gripper consists of a flexible, folding skeleton surrounded by an airtight skin. When vacuum is applied, the skeleton collects around the object to be retrieved. The gripper is capable of gripping objects of size up to 70% of the diameter and over 100 times its weight.

Preparation of the device involved the creation of 3D printed molds to produce the silicone rubber skeleton. Combined with precise laser cutting and advanced storage technology, this created a part that can be folded into shape under the right conditions. The structure was inspired by a "magic ball" origami design. The outer skin is remarkably simple in comparison – consisting of a regular latex balloon.

The team shows the gripper that performs some impressive achievements, with the robot able to retrieve objects of all shapes, sizes and weights without damage. The paper is available to read for the entire story on the device. The use of vacuum for delicate gripping tasks is something we have seen before.



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