MIT researchers just created an origami-inspired robot gripper that can grab fragile and heavy objects without dropping them.
A team of researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) built the robot gripper, which resembles a Venus flytrap, and it’s capable of grabbing objects that are delicate or items that are 100 times its weight, Engadget reported. The MIT team, which published their findings on
The MIT team said robots still have a challenging time picking up light and heavy objects, even those that have soft, flexible fingers made out of rubber. To help with this dilemma, MIT and Harvard researchers developed a new gripper: a cone-shaped origami structure that collapses in on objects and is soft and strong enough to grasp and carry larger items. This motion enables the gripper to pick up many types of belongings, such as hammers, drones, apples, and a tiny broccoli floret.
The gripper, which was inspired by the “origami magic ball,” can surround an entire object and successfully pick it up without issues. It has three main parts: An origami-based skeleton structure, the airtight skin to encase the structure, and a connector. The team made it by using a mechanic rubber mold and an advanced heat-shrinking plastic that self-folds when it’s hot.
MIT’s origami-inspired robot gripper can grasp a wide array of delicate & heavy objects: https://t.co/oV3qglQvuk pic.twitter.com/tcVoSlekuh
— MIT CSAIL (@MIT_CSAIL) March 14, 2019
By pairing the gripper with a standard robot, the gripper was able to grasp and lift items 70 percent of its diameter, so it was able to pick up all types of soft foods and bottles weighing over four pounds without damage. Even though the gripper can pick up cylindrical objects well, it still has some difficulty grasping flat objects, such as books and sandwiches.
Down the line, the team aims to solve the gripper’s issue of angle and orientation by implementing computer vision, which would allow the gripper to “see” and pick up specific parts of items.
“This is a very clever device that uses the power of 3D printing, a vacuum, and soft robotics to approach the problem of grasping in a whole new way,” Michael Wehner, an assistant professor of robotics at UC-Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the project, said in the press release. “In the coming years, I could imagine seeing soft robots gentle and dexterous enough to pick a rose, yet strong enough to safely lift a hospital patient.”