Soft robotic grippers are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to use soft, flexible materials like cloth, paper, and silicone. They act like a robot’s hand to perform functions such as safely grasping and releasing objects. These grippers are being researched for use in household robots that handle fragile objects like eggs or for logistics robots that need to carry different types of objects.
However, their low load capacity makes it challenging to lift heavy items, and their poor grasping stability makes it easy to lose the object even under mild external impact.
Dr. Song Kahye of the Intelligent Robotics Research Center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) collaborated with Professor Lee Dae-Young of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) to develop a soft robotic gripper that mimics a woven structure.
According to the researchers, these grippers can grip objects weighing more than 100 kg with 130 grams of material.
The research team came up with an innovative way to increase the loading capacity of the soft robot gripper. Instead of developing new materials or reinforcing the structure, they applied a new weaving technique inspired by textiles. This technique involves tightly intertwining individual threads to create a strong fabric that can support heavy objects.
This weaving technique has been used for centuries in clothing, bags, and industrial textiles. The team used thin PET plastic to create the grippers that allowed the strips to intertwine and form a woven structure.
As a result, the woven gripper weighs only 130 grams but can grip an object weighing up to 100 kilograms. In contrast, conventional grippers of the same weight can lift no more than 20 kilograms. Considering that a gripper that can lift the same weight weighs 100 kilograms, the team succeeded in increasing the load capacity relative to its own weight.
Also, the new soft robot gripper uses plastic that is highly competitive in price, costing only a few thousand won per unit of material. This gripper can grip objects of various shapes and weights, making it a universal gripper. The manufacturing process is simple and can be completed in less than 10 minutes by simply fastening a plastic strip.
The gripper can also be made of various materials such as rubber and compounds that possess elasticity, allowing the team to customize and utilize grippers suitable for industrial and logistics sites that require strong gripping performance or various environments that need to withstand extreme conditions.
“The woven structure gripper developed by KIST and KAIST has the strengths of a soft robot but can grasp heavy objects at the level of a rigid gripper,” Dr. Song said in an official statement. “It can be manufactured in a variety of sizes, from coins to cars, and can grip objects of various shapes and weights, from thin cards to flowers, so it is expected to be used in fields such as industry, logistics, and housework that require soft grippers.”