Gecko-like gripper to revolutionise manufacturing

New York, June 16 (IANS) Researchers have developed a new kind of gripper which is inspired by the gecko’s ability to grip and release surfaces and is perfectly suited for the delicate work involved in semiconductor manufacturing.

Picking things up and putting them down is a mainstay of any kind of manufacturing, but fingers, human or robotic are not always best for the task at hand.

Like the gecko, the gripper developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has “tunable adhesion”, meaning that, despite having no moving parts, its effective stickiness can be tuned from strong to weak.

“The tunability is achieved through a composite construction of simple cylindrical posts made of a hard plastic core surrounded by a softer silicone rubber shell,” said lead researcher Kevin Turner.

“At their current millimetre-scale size, the grippers can be used for moving smooth, fragile components, like silicon wafers or glass sheets. Scaled down, they could also be used in climbing robots and other larger-scale applications.”

Geckos can stick to sheer surfaces due to complex structures on the pads of their feet which use van der Waals adhesion.

Van der Waals adhesion is present any time two surfaces are in close contact. The closer the contact, the stronger is the attraction.

Changing the angle of their feet is what makes the gecko’s adhesion “tunable” and allows them to detach from the wall to take each step.

The study was published in Applied Physics Letters.

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