Grippers for soft robotics

Electroadhesion gripper

For information on our electroadhesion enabled gripper, please go to this page

Artificial muscle-based soft robot arms

We develop dielectric minimum energy structures (DEMES) as a basic actuator module for soft robotics. DEMES are capable of large actuation stroke, and consist of a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA, or artificial muscle) bonded onto a flexible frame, which makes it easy to form both simple and complex shapes. By careful choice of materials (i.e., kapton flex-PCB and pad-printed carbon-black PDMS electrodes), it is possible to implement additional functionalities such as sensors onto a frame, making our DEMES intelligent actuators particularly suited for soft robotics.


Multi-segment grippers

Removing space debris is an increasingly urgent task. One major challenge in this field is grabbing a non-cooperating target, such as a spinning satellite, so as to be able to de-orbit it. We are developing multi-segmented grippers to delicately nab small satellites or debris without creating additional space junk. The major advantages of using compliant polymer grippers are: their relative low weight (meaning that they are cost effect for being sent into space), their flexibility allowing them to be stored in small volumes by rolling or folding, and their conform to the shape of the debris, allowing “octopus”-like grabbing of arbitrary-shaped objects without generating more debris.

more info in our papers: IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics (2015)



Single-segment grippers

The image on the right is the first prototype, consisting of a 4 cm long actuator. At zero volts, the arm is curved at about 90° 
to the support. When 3 to 5 kV are applied, the arm moves to a completely flat configuration. Several arms can be used together as a gripper, or as legs of an autonomous robot.

The following two videos show the behavior of a two and four DEMES configured as a grippers.


Several devices are a collaboration with the EPFL -Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (EPFL-LIS), funded by NCCR robotics.

Main publications on soft grippers and DEMES

J. Shintake; V. Cacucciolo; D. Floreano; H. Shea : Soft Robotic Grippers; Advanced Materials. 2018. DOI : 10.1002/adma.201707035.
D. J. McCoul; S. Rosset; N. Besse; H. Shea : Multifunctional shape memory electrodes for dielectric elastomer actuators enabling high holding force and low-voltage multisegment addressing; Smart Materials and Structures. 2016. DOI : 10.1088/1361-665X/26/2/025015.
H. Shea; J. Shintake; D. Floreano : Soft compliant gripper for safe manipulation of extremely fragile objects; SPIE Newsroom. 2016. DOI : 10.1117/2.1201603.006409.
J. Shintake; S. Rosset; B. E. Schubert; D. Floreano; H. Shea : Versatile soft grippers with intrinsic electroadhesion based on multifunctional polymer actuators; Advanced Materials. 2016. DOI : 10.1002/adma.201504264.
S. Rosset; S. Araromi; S. Schlatter; H. Shea : Fabrication process of silicone-based dielectric elastomer actuators; Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE). 2016. DOI : 10.3791/53423.
S. Araromi; I. Gavrilovich; J. Shintake; S. Rosset; M. Richard et al. : Rollable Multisegment Dielectric Elastomer Minimum Energy Structures for a Deployable Microsatellite Gripper; IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. 2015. DOI : 10.1109/TMECH.2014.2329367.
S. Rosset; S. Araromi; J. Shintake; H. Shea : Model and design of dielectric elastomer minimum energy structures; Smart Materials and Structures. 2014. DOI : 10.1088/0964-1726/23/8/085021.