Design Innovation and Simulation Lab develops a new 3D printed soft robotic gripper

Posted: April 6, 2022

Researchers at the Design Innovation and Simulation Lab led by Dr. Haijun Su have developed a new 3D printed soft robotic gripper with a variable stiffness that has been published in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Robotics and Automation Letters.

The gripper works by using a novel positive pressure layer jamming technology, a concealed blade is inflated to jamming sheets of thin layer materials. In its low stiffness mode, it is flexible enough to adapt a wide range of object shapes. By changing the air pressure inside the blade, it can be stiffened up for picking up heavy objects.

“Conventional rigid grippers are designed for grasping heavy objects, but suffer in adapting to complex shapes,” Su said. “While recently developed soft grippers can adapt to more complex shapes due to their inherent softness, they are strong enough to grasp heavier objects. Our robotic gripper has a variable stiffness. Therefore, it has advantages of both rigid and soft grippers equaling high payload and high adaptability.”

Gripping examples

Su hopes that this technology can be used in a wide range of areas where the ability to grasp a large assortment of objects is needed. Some examples of where this technology could be used is automation lines for e-commence order filling, commercial kitchen automation, interior room services, and many more.

This work has also been submitted for a provisional US patent. The research team hopes this technology can be commercialized in the new future. 

This work is based on George Crowley’s undergraduate honors thesis under Su’s supervision. Crowley received MAE’s Outstanding Research Award for Undergraduate Students in 2021. Doctoral student Xianpai Zeng was also closely involved in this research.

“I am very proud of their excellent work,” Su said.

Robotic gripper

The research team has high hopes that this research will continue to make waves in the robotics community and continue to push the possibility of robotics further.

“We are pleased to publish this work in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters which is a highly respected journal in the area of robotics and automation,” Su said. “This work will also be presented at 2022 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (IRCA) which is a flag-ship conference in robotics, to be held in Philadelphia, PA in May. We expect this work will have a high impact to the area.”

Read the published piece here: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9730080

Category: Research