Electroadhesive Gripper Gives Robots Sticky Hands

Using electricity in a robot hand to pick up objects! This new technology is called electroadhesive gripping, and it allows robots to grip a wide array of objects and surfaces.

Traditionally, robots have had a hard time gripping objects because there are few good universal grippers. Most objects are very different from each other, with different textures, sizes, and physical properties. Using electroadhesion, grippers may be designed to pick up many more objects than previous robot grippers could.

Below is an example of electroadhesive gripping applications. The grippers are even used to give robots traction to climb up brick walls, glass windows, and a variety of other difficult surfaces!

Electroadheive Robot Gripper Picking Up Objects

Electroadheive Robot Gripper Picking Up Objects

By inducing charges on the surfaces, the electroadhesive gripper makes robotic hands “sticky”. Because this gripper uses electricity to run, it makes it more convenient for robot builders to use; there is no need for pneumatic vacuum pumps like many other universal grippers require.

Electroadhesion Illustration

Electroadhesion Illustration, How the gripper works. Source: SRI.com

As the name implies, electroadhesion is an electrically controllable adhesion technology. It involves inducing electrostatic charges on a wall substrate using a power supply connected to compliant pads situated on the moving robot. SRI has demonstrated robust clamping to common building materials including glass, wood, metal, concrete, etc. with clamping pressures in the range of 0.5 to 1.5 N per square cm of clamp (0.8 to 2.3 pounds per square inch). The technology works on conductive and non-conductive substrates, smooth or rough materials, and through dust and debris. Unlike conventional adhesives or dry adhesives, the electroadhesion can be modulated or turned off for mobility or cleaning. The technology uses a very small amount of power (on the order of 20 microwatts/Newton weight held) and shows the ability to repeatably clamp to wall substrates that are heavily covered in dust or other debris.

 — Source: SRI International

This new technology from SRI is certainly one we will see in the next generation of robots.

One response to “Electroadhesive Gripper Gives Robots Sticky Hands”

  1. Vu Nguyen

    This is actually really neat. Would you recommend any place to get a sample of this set up to try it out, though on a much smaller sized robot? Our group works with educational robotics so this would be cool to be able to show in a classroom.

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