One day, robots will replace humans at places like Amazon where objects need to be taken from one bin and packaged in boxes for shipment. Before that can happen, we need robot arms with grippers that can handle odd objects of all sizes. Engineers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have come up with one such idea.
The “Magic Ball” soft gripper uses an origami-inspired 3D printed silicon rubber skeleton inside that is very flexible. Over the top of that, the team used a balloon in some instances to create an airtight system that can contract under vacuum pressure. When the suction is applied, the gripper closes and has enough strength to lift 100 times its own weight.
The gripper is also said to be inexpensive to make. It can lift items that are 70% of its diameter and handles fragile objects with care. I wonder if they could build a version that can grip and lift larger and heavier objects.