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Technology Factsheet

Empire Robotics VERSABALL Gripper

Category: Robotics > Other > End Effector
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The VERSABALL gripper comprises a bead-filled bladder that conforms to the shape of any object it it pushed against. Once in place, a negative pressure is applied to the bladder that both causes the beads to lock together and the bladder to constrict slightly around the object, thus gripping it.

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TRL:Research (1-3)
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The $4,000 “jamming gripper” embodies the latest in robotics theory, but is essentially a lime green balloon filled with industrial-grade granules. The green blob presses itself against an object and deforms around it. A pump then sucks the air out of the balloon which locks the granules in position and clamps down on the object. Within a tenth of a second it can seize anything from tiny Lego bricks to shards of broken glass and can easily handle objects that weigh up to 20 pounds.

Though it lacks a single digit or claw-like contrivance, Versaball creates grip strength in three ways. First, when the vacuum kicks in, there is approximately half a percent of contraction in the volume of the gripper, which paired with the friction from the balloon, creates a pressurized clamp. Second, for many objects, the ball envelops a portion of the object, creating a stronger mechanical grasp. Finally, if there is a smooth area on the object being grasped, a vacuum forms between the gripper and object.

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