Engineers from the Siena Robotics and Systems Lab (SIRSLaB) have designed a soft robotic gripper with an under-scoop that acts as a palm, allowing it to augment contact areas on different-sized objects to obtain a more robust grasp using lower forces.
Most soft robotic grippers adapt to the shape of the object they are grasping, such as Beihang University’s Universal Soft Robotic Gripper, and MIT’s Magic Ball Gripper, which employ various materials to deform around an object to achieve a firm hold. SIRSLaB’s Soft ScoopGripper, on the other hand, can make the object conform to the grip by reconfiguring its fingers and using its under-scoop for leverage.
The engineers developed the Soft ScoopGripper using a pair of 3D-printed underactuated tendon-driven flexible fingers composed of six soft/rigid modules and an underlying scoop, which are driven by a motor, a couple of actuators, four tendons (running in parallel) and differential mechanism. The finger modules can be reassembled in all sorts of configurations and with varying values of stiffness for each joint, which is done through the 3D printing process using different parameters.
While the gripper is controlled manually using several buttons to control the actuation, the researchers state the platform can be installed on a robotic arm and managed wirelessly using an XBee module that can be installed on the gripper’s control circuit. They’re also looking at ways to incorporate more advanced scoops to the robotic gripper to increase the efficiency of its grasping ability and provide another level of robustness. Of course, they are exploring even more ways to exploit the Soft ScoopGripper as an end-effector of a robotic arm for autonomous grasp planning.