China’s Tsinghua University and Southwest University of Science and Technology have jointly developed a new sea anemone-inspired robotic gripper.
According to The Engineer, the highly flexible, low-cost robotic gripper has been modelled on how sea anemones capture their prey.
The doughnut-shaped gripper captures and releases objects by crimping its thermoplastic skin, controlled by liquid pressure in the ring.
According to the scientists, adjusting the length of the skin and the direction in which it rolls, enables them to control when objects need to be grabbed, fully engulfed, or released.
The robotic torus too is highly adaptable and can be used to exert different types of grip across a wide range of objects.
“We found that sea anemones can capture sea creatures with different shapes and sizes, so we decided to investigate the mechanism of the predation strategy, and we believed that the study would be helpful to the design of adaptive soft graspers,” says Weifeng Yuan, main author of the study.
“Our grasper can grasp a steel bar from a table one minute and an egg from a basket the next without resetting control parameters.”
During the course of the study, the team tested the device by latching onto objects ranging from a piece of cloth to a phone and a glass beaker filled with liquid.
According to Yuan, the gripper’s biggest strengths are its simplicity and versatility. It has the potential to grasp fragile objects in confined spaces, as well as operate in extreme environments such as the deep sea, collecting organisms or assisting with pipe maintenance.
What’s more, the rudimentary nature of the grabbing mechanism gives it a potential advantage over more complex grippers that mimic the human hand.
The Engineer reports that the team is mulling on bringing about more improvements such as increasing the gripper’s strength-to-weight ratio by using pneumatics rather than hydraulics as the actuating force.
Image and content: Weifeng Yuan/The Engineer