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The Fascinating World of Science—Behind the Mask of “Soft Robotic Octopus Gripper”

Release time:June 2, 2017 / Siying He,He Siying

Lead-in

 

On March 27, 2017, FESTO Inc., a supplier of pneumatic and electrical automation technology, launched a press, releasing “Octopus Gripper”, a new prototype outcome from Bionic Learning Networks, which was collaborated between Beihang University and FESTO bionic department. The design, manufacture and mechanical analysis of this prototype was performed by Zhexin Xie, a PhD student from School of Mechanical Engineering & Automation, Beihang University. Zheyuan Gong, a graduate student, who conducted the control system. Dr. Elias Knubben from Festo recorded and edited the video. The director of this project was Prof. Li Wen from Biomechanics and Soft Robotics Lab, Beihang University.

 

 

See a Fun Side of Bio-robot

 

Everything is born with a gift from the nature. Scientists are inspired by the gifts of the nature and apply them to the society by developing new technologies that are potentially useful.Professor Li Wen explored and acquired many inspirations from delicate and complicated structures of various marine creatures from sharks to the octopus. In 2014, he published a paper on “3D Printed Shark skin”, as the first author and corresponding author, in the magazine “The Journal of Experimental Biology”, and was covered by many medians and magazines including Science and Nature. The physical mechanism drawn from the surface texture of sharkskin in efficient swimming is one of the prevalent topics in the field of bionics, new materials and manufacturing. The octopus tentacle’s potential of enabling both suction and wrapping, and apply this feature will allow objects to be safely and firmly gripped while remaining undamaged. This new robotic approach compensates for the traditional rigid robots’ weakness.

 

 

Delicacy Requires Huge Efforts

 

Technological product calls for nonstop upgrading. On the basis of elephant nose gripper, the scientific research team made every effort to optimize the product. They added active suction force, and it enabled the octopus gripper to function in both twining and suction. Besides, the section of tentacle was transformed from circle to semicircle. With implanted three-dimensional anisotropic sheet, the team added three-dimensional anisotropic elasticity fiber to the surface of tentacle to control its deformation beyond bending direction, to confirm the precision and weight of gripping. The toughest task was the selection of soft material. What they need was moderately soft material that could realize the control system and grip relatively heavy objects to meet the need of practical production. During this time, the team tested variety of materials, and now the tentacle weighing 190 g is able to grip any object that weighs 1KG (at most) after they upgraded the product ten times. However, the product still has a long way to go. The research team hope that this product could grip objects of different sizes and weights to make contributions in different fields in the near future.

 

 

Ultimate Goal of Scientific Research : Best Serve Mankind

 

This cooperation between Beihang and FESTO sets a very good example of nature inspired robotics for human application. Behind the mask of the product stands a steadfast research team who improves technologies, achieve theoretical breakthroughs, and makes contributions to the society. A small step for scientific research would possibly be a stride for the human society. Therefore, it is quite possible that this gripper being applied to many other fields in the long term.

 

Read more:

Biomechanics and Soft Robotics Lab:

http://softrobotics.buaa.edu.cn/home/index.htm

http://iriglobal.buaa.edu.cn/  

 

Written by: Yan Hanqi

Edited by:He Siying