Thumb ticker multipurpose gripper

Gecko-inspired multipurpose gripper

An elastic membrane covered with tiny fibres paired with a pressure differential enables a new soft gripper system with a high adhesion performance even on curved surfaces

Robots generally need a gripper that adapts to three-dimensional surfaces. Such a gripper needs to be soft to adapt to a great variety of geometries, but not too soft, as it will detach easily and not be able to bear weight for very long. Researchers working with Metin Sitti at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart developed a membrane equipped with microscopic fibres inspired by the fine hairs on a gecko's foot and attached it to a suction cup-like flexible body. An internal pressure differential ensures perfect conformation of the flexible gripper to a wide variety of surfaces and equally distributes the load over the entire contact interface. As a result, the researchers suppressed load induced stress concentrations at the edges, which strongly reduced the adhesion. The gripper demonstrates a 14-times higher adhesion than grippers without this load sharing mechanism.