Emerging Technologies

This new robotic gripper is gentle enough to handle eggs

An employee works on a production line manufacturing drugs at the Yangtze River Pharmaceutical Group in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, China September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. - RC1DB67E6620

The design of the robotic hand allows it to absorb energy from impacts during collisions, researcher say. This prevents whatever the robot is holding from breaking. Image: REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. - RC1DB67E6620

Charlotte HSU-Buffalo
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Artificial Intelligence is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Artificial Intelligence

A new robotic gripper can alter its grip depending on what it’s holding.

Human hands have remarkable skills that allow manipulation of a range of objects. We can pick up an egg or a strawberry without smashing it. We can hammer a nail. One reason our hands can perform such a variety of tasks has to do with our ability to alter the firmness of our grip.

Researchers designed the new two-fingered robotic hand to do the same thing.

The robotic gripper uses repulsion between magnets to adjust the stiffness of its grip and absorb energy from collisions. This helps improve safety in industrial settings, and prevents objects like this dry piece of spaghetti from breaking.
Image: Douglas Levere/U. Buffalo

The design of the robotic hand allows it to absorb energy from impacts during collisions, researcher say. 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, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Loading...

“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. They’re going to be helpers, so they need to be safe, and variable stiffness grippers help to achieve that goal.”

Magnets are the secret behind the robotic gripper’s versatility, Esfahani says. Instead of having two fingers fixed in place, each of the gripper’s fingers has a magnetic base that sits between two neodymium magnets that repulse, or push against, the finger.

Have you read?

The air gap between the magnets acts like a spring, creating a little give when the hand picks up an object or collides with an external force. User cans also increase or decrease the space between the magnets to adjust the stiffness of the grip.

In one test, the engineers placed a short stick of spaghetti lengthwise between the fingers of the robotic hand. When the gripper crashed into a fixed object, the device detected the external force, which caused the magnets to adjust their position, temporarily reducing the stiffness of the grip and allowing the gripper to absorb some of the energy from the collision.

The end result? The spaghetti stick stayed in one piece.

It’s possible to attach the gripper to commercially available robot arms already in use in many facilities, Esfahani says. That could lower the cost of adapting the technology for companies interested in improving the safety and capabilities of existing machines.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial RevolutionManufacturing and Value Chains
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Digital public infrastructure is transforming lives in Pakistan. Here's how 

Tariq Malik and Prerna Saxena

July 12, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum