That static attraction that you feel between a balloon and your hand may someday enable robots to grasp and pick up objects. A California-based company named Grabit recently showed off their new electrostatic gripper at the Robobusiness conference held in Boston. Their new flexible gripper utilizes electrostatic attraction to grasp objects. But not only is this method more versatile than other grippers, it’s a cheaper alternative to other gripper methods.
The gripper is comprised of a flexible, film-looking material lined with thin wires that induce a charge. When the wires run electricity through the gripper, the flexible bands bend inward and literally "stick" or attract to the object. The grippers prevent foreign particles like dust from collecting by switching the polarities back and forth. The company points out that this type of gripper can withstand repetitive factory use because of its durable and flexible material.
MIT Technology Review pointed out that this technology is already being used in factories. For example, electrostatic grippers work with holding microchip wafers. But unlike the robotic gripper, these grippers are flat.
We've seen unconventional grippers in the past. Some have been made with balloons filled with coffee grounds and other soft materials. It's a trend that has a goal of making robot dexterity more effective while maintaining a low cost. In the future, we could see this type of electrostatic gripper being used to handle small, delicate objects. Perhaps small semiconductors for solar cells?
Source: MIT Technology Review
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