Robotic gripper from University of South Wales has an intricate sensor to prevent damage to the object it is handling.


  • Lightweight
  • Autonomous


  • Robotics
  • Underwater exploration
  • Medical devices

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Robotic grippers are often designed with multiple finger-like components that help grasp specifically shaped objects. Although these have proven to be effective, the multiple components and joints can be difficult to control and are vulnerable to breaking. If the robot is damaged and unable to grip a variety of objects, it will need to be re-made, leading to increased costs.

Innovation Details

The robotic gripper wraps around objects in order to grasp them, similar to an elephant’s trunk. The gripper has a force sensor that detects the strength it is using, to prevent damage to the objects it is handling. Additionally, the gripper has a thermally-activated mechanism that enables the robot to easily vary from stiff to flexible. The gripper is able to hold objects up to 220 times its own weight.

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Biological Model

An elephant’s trunk is highly dynamic, it is able to move in a variety of directions with immense strength and precision. Yet, the trunk has no skeletal support or fluid displacement throughout the muscle to support it. Instead, it works through antagonistic movement; while one muscle group contracts an opposing muscle group elongates, allowing the trunk to bend.