OnRobot has begun shipping its newly available Gecko Gripper.
Originating as a NASA experiment, the gripper uses millions of micro-scaled fibrillar stalks that adhere to a surface using powerful van der Waals forces — the same way geckos climb. The Gecko Gripper enables robots to pick up flat, smooth objects with significant energy savings over existing grippers such as vacuum grippers, which require compressed air that is costly, power intensive and bulky.
OnRobot says the Gecko Gripper can pay for itself in eight months in cost savings for electricity to compress air alone. The new grippers can affix to a wide range of surfaces including fragile items that vacuum grippers can’t handle. They also offer competitive advantages over electrostatic grippers, which are weaker and require high voltage systems to operate.
In its initial design, the Gecko Gripper progressed from a Stanford research project to the NASA Jet propulsion Lab and on to industry through multiple collaborations. The original NASA use case was for salvaging and repairing satellites such as solar panels, given the Gecko Gripper’s ability to operate in a vacuum. Perception Robotics created the first industrial grippers with new polymer research that increased gripping strength by five times. Perception was then acquired by OnRobot, which is dedicated to developing and commercializing innovation that helps manufacturers take full advantage of collaborative robotics.
“The market reaction to the Gecko Gripper has been extremely positive,” says Kristian Hulgard, OnRobot’s general manager for Americas. “We see the gripper now challenging traditional application and material handling design in a wide range of delicate tasks such as picking up porous and delicate objects like PCB boards.”