Research group extends capabilities of jamming universal gripper robot arm effector (w/ video)

Feb 15, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: John Amend, Cornell University

(PhysOrg.com) -- Last we heard, researchers from Cornell University, the University of Chicago and iRobot had together designed and built a robot “hand” or end effector that worked by taking advantage of the jamming that occurs when air is added to or removed from an enclosed container that holds a material that can be compressed. In this case, the team had filled an ordinary party balloon with dried coffee, which they then affixed to a vacuum pump. Adding air made the coffee pliant enough to allow the balloon to settle around an object. Quickly sucking out the air caused the coffee to compress (jam together) exerting pressure on the object, allowing it to be held and moved around by the gripper which was attached to a programmable robot arm. Now, a subset of that team has added a new feature to their universal gripper, the ability to accurately toss the objects that it picks up. They describe their work in a paper soon to be published in IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The team found that by very quickly pumping air back into the coffee filled balloon, they could cause the object being held by the to be flung through the air with a reasonable degree of precision (±60 millimeters with 95% confidence in the direction perpendicular to flight.) In the demonstration video, the gripper is seen tossing small balls into a basket with accuracy that would be the envy of any basketball player. Next, it’s seen sorting and tossing bolts and springs into two clearly labeled boxes, followed by a demonstration of its ability to roll objects across a table into other objects. And then, for its grand finale, the gripper plays a game of darts displaying more accuracy than most would ever see at the local pub.

Credit: John Amend, Cornell University

What is perhaps most interesting is the elegance displayed by the gripper. Rather than the clunky mix of artificial fingers seen on many arms, this gripper moves with the smooth grace of a ballet dancer. Comparing it to other robot hands is rather like taking note of the difference between the playing styles of tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. One takes the blunt force approach, the other glides smoothly across the court without breaking a sweat.

Credit: John Amend, Cornell University

Another clear advantage of such a gripper is that it’s clearly less expensive to build than other devices that rely on mechanical finger manipulations; plus, it appears more nimble, as adept at picking up coke bottles or eggs as it is picking a dime up off the table.

It’s not difficult to envision applications for this new kind of gripper, though if it’s to be commercialized something much more durable than an ordinary balloon will need to be crafted. If robots are ever to become commonplace in the home, its likely technology like this will be leading the way.

Explore further: Pentagon scientists show off life-size Atlas robot

More information: creativemachines.cornell.edu/positive_pressure_gripper

Related Stories

Robots are coming to aircraft assembly

Sep 19, 2011

Up to now, aircraft have been put together in huge assembly cells, but to build the necessary facilities is expensive and time-consuming. That is why Fraunhofer researchers have come up with a flexible assembly-line ...

Robot fetches objects with just a point and a click

Mar 19, 2008

Robots are fluent in their native language of 1 and 0 absolutes but struggle to grasp the nuances and imprecise nature of human language. While scientists are making slow, incremental progress in their quest ...

A delicate grip

Nov 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Solar wafers for use in the production of photovoltaic systems are extremely sensitive. In a test and demonstration center research is being conducted on grippers to determine the best way ...

Finnish robotics firm develops trash recycling robot

Apr 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Finnish firm ZenRobotics has designed and built a robot that can sort through construction waste and pluck out recyclable material moving by on conveyer belt and then deposit it in an ...

Recommended for you

Robot scouts rooms people can't enter

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at ...

A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

Apr 18, 2014

In the hunt for signs of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370—which disappeared on March 8 after deviating for unknown reasons from its scheduled flight path—all eyes today turn to a company that got its start ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

Apr 16, 2014

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Feb 15, 2012
Really neat. Friction is also involved.
Shifty0x88
not rated yet Feb 16, 2012
Another clear advantage of such a gripper is that its clearly less expensive to build than other devices that rely on mechanical finger manipulations; plus, it appears more nimble, as adept at picking up coke bottles or eggs as it is picking a dime up off the table.


Too bad you need a really annoying and really noisy compressor to go with it
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Feb 16, 2012
Very impressive. I would not have suspected that such precision was possible from that type of gripper.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2012
Too bad you need a really annoying and really noisy compressor to go with it


Nah, a magnetic linear actuator (like on an automobile starter) would work fine. Just place an air plunger on it. Small, silent, durable, light weight.

Very impressive. I would not have suspected that such precision was possible from that type of gripper


If the objects had not been pre-placed exactly in the center of the gripper it would have missed. You can see the markings on the table for the exact placement. Any object picked up off-center on the gripper would be thrown at an angle.

More news stories

Jacket works like a mobile phone

A fire is raging in a large building and the fire leader is sending a message to all firefighters at the scene. But they don't need a mobile phone – they simply check their jacket sleeves and read the message ...

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

High-calorie and low-nutrient foods in kids' TV

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study from the University of Gothenburg explores how food is portrayed in ...