Getting robots to grip oddly-shaped or delicate objects has been a problem in the past. The standard metal claw has little finesse, which is an issue if you want to have a means of delivering small screws or pills. iRobot, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago worked together to develop a universal gripper that would be able to do better than a claw.
Inspired by their invention, Steve Norris created his own universal gripper using a balloon filled with coffee grounds, a Reynolds Handi-Vac, and a robotic arm. By placing the balloon on top of the object to be picked up, and then removing the air from it, Norris is able to move everything from a pair of forceps to a couple of Tylenol capsules.
While Norris hasn’t provided instructions, it seems like a fairly straightforward build for someone who already has expertise with robotic arms. Check out Norris's Flickr set for more photos.
Blair Hanley Frank is arming himself for the impending robot apocalypse.
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