Gripper from ETH Zurich and Purdue University has a soft elastic joint that enables it to methodically self-unfold.


  • Efficient
  • Tunable
  • Reduced energy usage
  • Lightweight


  • Robotics
  • Prosthetics

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Traditional gripping robots use linkages, springs, and actuators in their appendages, which usually make them heavy and bulky, hindering their overall handling performance. Additionally, these mechanisms can require external energy or batteries, making the device less portable.

Innovation Details

The gripper is a synthetic folding system with self-folding and locking capabilities. It has stiff facets with rubber-like hinges. The mid-region is highly specialized so that it is stable in two states: folded and unfolded. The mechanism behind this stability involves the elastic energy stored in the folds on the mid-region. The gripper can fully deploy and hold on to objects without external energy.

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Biomimicry Story

In a resting state, earwigs have hidden wings that are folded like origami and stowed. When escaping a predator or attacking prey, they quickly unfold their wings, expanding them to 10-times their initial size. Once the insects stop flying, they promptly fold and store their wings in the initial, resting position.