The FlexShapeGripper from Festo is a more energy-efficient and reliable adaptive shape gripper that encloses objects to fit around them.


  • Versatile gripping abilities
  • Adaptable


  • Production
  • Manufacturing

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

The Challenge

Manufacturing is going through an automation revolution, and robots need to have the precision and capability of a human in order to create a reliable step in the process. Movements such as gripping and picking up objects can prove challenging, and can use a lot of time and resources if done improperly.

Innovation Details

The FlexShapeGripper consists of a double-acting cylinder, of which one chamber is filled with compressed air whilst the second one is permanently filled with water. This second chamber is fitted with elastic silicone moulding, which equates to the chameleon’s tongue. During the gripping procedure, a handling system guides the gripper across the object so that it touches the article with its silicone cap. Simultaneously, the handling system guides the gripper further across the object. In doing so, the silicone cap wraps itself around the object to be gripped, which can be of any shape, resulting in a tight form fit. The elastic silicone allows a precise to a wide range of different geometries. The high static friction of the material generates a strong holding force.

Image: FESTO / Copyright © - All rights reserved

Energy-free holding even with multiple objects. Photo: Festo.

Image: FESTO / Copyright © - All rights reserved

The FlexShapeGripper can hold a variety of objects. Photo: Festo.

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Biological Model

A chameleon can catch all kinds of insects by putting its tongue over the respective prey and securely enclosing it. Once the chameleon has its prey in its sights, it lets its tongue shoot out like a rubber band. Just before the tip of the tongue reaches the insect, it retracts in the middle, while the edges continue to move forward. This allows the tongue to adapt to the shape and size of the respective prey and firmly enclose it. The prey sticks to the tongue and is snapped back into the chameleon’s mouth.