A soft grip

Electroadhesion exploited along with flexible electronics to create a soft grip. Credit: EPFL

Grabbing is common to all animals. It comes naturally to us, just think how many times a day we pick up something, most of the time without even noticing. And yet, grabbing something is a very complex action, so complex that researchers working on robotics have been struggling to find a solution.

Picking up a cube of sugar or an egg is quite a different issue. The cube of sugar is hard, it has edges that make it easier for an artificial hand to pick it up. An egg is hard but it can break easily if your grabbing exerts too much pressure on its shell. Besides it has no edges and it can easily slip away...

And yet, for us, it is no challenge to pick up one or the other. Our sense of touch (and vision) provides clues to the brain to command just the right pressure.

At EPFL they have invented a flexible soft gripper exploiting the property of electroadhesion. This provides a robot a sort of opposable thumb that can reshape itself to fit any surface.

Soft electrodes bend around the object and the electrostatic force grips the object. The force exerted can be as much as 80 times the weight of the electrodes. You want be able to pick up heavy objects but is usually with the ones that are light that exerting an excessive pressure may cause damages.

Watch the clip to see how nice it works...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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