The Soft ScoopGripper’s has an under scoop that allows for more precise grips (Photo from SIRSLaB)


When it comes to soft robotics, typically the robotic hands adjust its shape to the object it’s trying to grab. But since most of the grasps are of the power type, it usually doesn’t have enough dexterity to make a precise grasp. That may change with a new concept by the engineers from the Siena Robotics and Systems Lab (SIRSLaB). The team has designed a soft robotic gripper with an under-scoop that acts as a palm, allowing it to augment contact areas on different-sized objects for a stronger grasp using lower forces.


Unlike most robotic grippers that adjust according to the shape of the object it’s grasping, SIRSLaB’s Soft ScoopGripper can make the object conform to the grip by readjusting its fingers and using the under-scoop for leverage. Made up of two soft modular fingers actuated by a single tendon, the Soft ScoopGripper was developed using a pair of 3D printed underactuated tendon-driven flexible fingers made up of six soft/rigid modules. It’s also equipped with the underlying scoop, powered by a motor, a few actuators, four tendons, and differential mechanism.


The fingers have the ability to be reassembled in different configurations and varying degrees of stiffness for each joint, which is done using a 3D printing process with different parameters. Though the gripper is manually controlled using buttons to control the actuation, the team says it can be installed on a robotic arm and used wirelessly using an XBee module that can be installed on the gripper’s control circuit.


SIRSLaB shared a video of the ScoopGripper in action. The clip shows the gripper picking up items, like fruit, containers, and soccer balls using different configurations. Some of these include its fingers closing toward the scoop to grasp a small item, a horizontal grip that closes parallel to the scoop, and a wide grip with rounded fingertips to pick up spherical items.  


Results look promising so far, but there’s still more work to be done. The team is currently looking at ways to include more advanced scoops to the robotic gripper to increases its efficiency and grasping ability. They’re also looking at ways to exploit the ScoopGripper as an end-effector of a robotic arm for autonomous grasp planning.



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