A variable compliance, soft gripper


Autonomous grasping is an important but challenging task and has therefore been intensively addressed by the robotics community. One of the important issues is the ability of the grasping device to accommodate varying object shapes in order to form a stable, multi-point grasp. Particularly in the human environment, where robots are faced with a vast set of objects varying in shape and size, a versatile grasping device is highly desirable. Solutions to this problem have often involved discrete continuum structures that typically comprise of compliant sections interconnected with mechanically rigid parts. Such devices require a more complex control and planning of the grasping action than intrinsically compliant structures which passively adapt to complex shapes objects. In this paper, we present a low-cost, soft cable-driven gripper, featuring no stiff sections, which is able to adapt to a wide range of objects due to its entirely soft structure. Its versatility is demonstrated in several experiments. In addition, we also show how its compliance can be passively varied to ensure a compliant but also stable and safe grasp.

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We would like to thank Yue Zheng, Peng Huang and Dr Peter Walters for their excellent hardware support, help in conducting the experiments and fruitful discussions about the prototype. This work has been funded by the European Commission. It is part of the INTRO (INTeractive RObotics Research Network) project, in the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) framework, Grant Agreement No.: 238486

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Correspondence to M. E. Giannaccini.

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Giannaccini, M.E., Georgilas, I., Horsfield, I. et al. A variable compliance, soft gripper. Auton Robot 36, 93–107 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10514-013-9374-8

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  • Grasping
  • Soft robotics
  • Continuum robot
  • Variable compliance
  • Shape invariant grasping