Gripping based on the archetype of the chameleon’s tongue

The chameleon can catch a wide variety of insects by putting its tongue over the respective prey and enclosing it securely. The FlexShapeGripper uses this principle to grip very different objects in a form-fitting manner. With its elastic silicone cap, it can even pick up and deposit several objects in a single gripping process – without the need for manual changeover.

The bionic gripper consists of a double-acting cylinder, one chamber of which is filled with compressed air, while the other is permanently filled with water. On this second chamber the elastic silicone molding is mounted, which corresponds to the chameleon's tongue. The volume of the two chambers is designed to compensate for the deformation of the silicone part.

Form-locking gripping thanks to folding over

During the gripping process, a handling system guides the gripper over the object so that it touches the object with its silicone cap. Now the upper pressure chamber is vented and the water-filled silicone part pulls itself inwards. At the same time, industrial robot continues to guide the gripper over the object. The silicone cap folds itself over the object to be gripped, which can have any shape, thus creating a tight and secure fit. The elastic silicone allows a precise adjustment to many different geometries. The high static friction of the material generates a strong holding force.

Potential applications in the factory of the future

Whether on an industrial robot or on the arm of a robot: once taken into operation, the gripper can perform various tasks. This functional integration is one way in which systems and components can adapt themselves to different products and scenarios in the future. The project also shows how we gain new insights from nature for the core business of automation.

New impulses through open innovation

However, learning from nature is not the only goal of the Bionic Learning Network. The early recognition and promotion of good ideas also plays an important role. The FlexShapeGripper was developed in cooperation with the Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences and is an excellent example of close cooperation across company boundaries.