Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a 3D printed gripper that operates without the need for electronics. The gripper, printed in one go, can pick up, hold, and release objects, offering new possibilities for industrial manufacturing, food production, research, and exploration tasks.
Unlike most 3D printed soft robots that require complex assembly and suffer from leaks and stiffness, this gripper uses a novel 3D printing method. The printer nozzle follows a continuous path throughout each layer, reducing leaks and defects commonly associated with soft materials. Additionally, the method enables the printing of thin walls, enhancing the gripper’s flexibility and overall softness.
What sets this gripper apart is its fluidic logic, allowing it to grip and release objects by simply turning the gripper horizontally. The gripper is powered by a high-pressure gas, and the change in airflow in the valves triggers the release of the gripper’s fingers, providing a seamless and efficient gripping experience.
“We designed functions so that a series of valves would allow the gripper to both grip on contact and release at the right time,” said Yichen Zhai, a postdoctoral researcher in the Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab at the University of California San Diego.
“It’s the first time such a gripper can both grip and release. All you have to do is turn the gripper horizontally. This triggers a change in the airflow in the valves, making the two fingers of the gripper release.”
The applications for this soft gripper are vast, from industrial automation to delicate fruit handling and can enable safer interactions between robots and humans, thanks to its soft structure.
You can read the full paper, titled “Desktop fabrication of monolithic soft robotic devices with embedded fluidic control circuits” in the Science Robotics journal, at this link.
Come and let us know your thoughts on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, and don’t forget to sign up for our weekly additive manufacturing newsletter to get all the latest stories delivered right to your inbox.