Here, the insides of the advanced, balloon-like gripper are
only coffee grounds. Amazing how much roboticists can do
with simple components.
prototypes. We focused on the gripper because different
pumps could be used for different applications,” says
Brown. The connection to the pump requires a filter to
prevent the coffee grounds from leaving the gripper.
The scientists attached the gripper to a robotic arm in a
fixed position. The arm selected for the gripper is a CRS
A465 model. “The model is convenient for pick and place
testing. We only performed tests to evaluate the grip
performance, and not to evaluate characteristics with a
specific arm, as different arms could be chosen for different
applications,” says Brown.
The gripper can lift items many times its own weight
and size. This is due in part to the geometry involved when
the gripper presses so firmly against the object’s surface. It
is also because of the friction between the gripper and the
object. “The gripper picks up objects using friction when it
pinches them, even if it doesn’t wrap very far around those
objects. This is similar to someone palming a basketball
with one hand,” explains Brown.
This balloon and coffee ground end effector will be
ideal in applications where the robot arm and hand have to
pick up multiple items together, especially items which the
robot has not previously seen. Specific scenarios include
military robots for removing bombs, robot maids or butlers
for picking up items in the home, and picking parts in
industrial settings where items on a conveyor belt are not
“Generally, we think our gripper concept would work
well where a variety of objects need to be gripped, but
where sensing and computation are difficult or expensive,
or ease of use is desirable,” says Brown. Examples of such
applications include hazardous materials work, remote
controlled robots for search and rescue missions,
prosthetics, and working under water.
12 SERVO 01.2011
Your autograph? As intelligent as it is practical, the hand holds
a pen and writes on a surface.
The researchers intended this first work on the gripper
to establish a foundation for a jamming gripper and to
create a model of gripping characteristics for such an end
effector. The model will help roboticists design future
grippers enhanced for efficiency for specific applications
under specific conditions. “Now, we are looking for
partners who want to productize the technology,” says
With all the complexities involved with a humanoid
hand, it’s amazing how a simple yet out of the box answer
may be the right one after all. SV
Photos by John Amend, Cornell University.
Gripper home page
Universal gripper video
Eric Brown home page
John Amend home page
Hod Lipson home page
Heinrich Jaeger home page