Festo’s adaptive shape gripper DHEF can pick up almost anything
April 24, 2019
Round, square or rectangular, even irregular shapes: Whatever the object, Festo’s new DHEF adaptive shape gripper can pick and move it, handling different shapes without the need for manual adjustment. It’s the latest automation product to emanate from research performed by Festo’s Bionic Learning network, which borrows from highly efficient forms of movement in nature.
The DHEF mimics the action of a chameleon’s tongue – wrapping its elastic silicon cap around objects. It works in conjunction with the gripper’s pneumatic drive to create a secure, form-fitting hold with little energy usage.
Most mechanical grippers currently available on the market can only grip specific components. By contrast, the DHEF can manage many geometries, including components with variable or free-form shapes. It has no sharp edges, making it ideal for gripping sensitive objects such as air nozzles or trim strips. In principle, it can pick up several parts in one movement, for example nuts from a bowl. This means that the gripper can be used to handle small parts in classic machine building, in the electronic or automotive industry, in supply units for packaging installations, for human-robot interaction during assembly tasks or as prosthetic extensions in medical technology.
The gripper’s elastic silicone membrane is flexible and pliable; once it is supplied with compressed air, and a standardized robot interface, it is ready for use in everyday automation. Additional features include a standard sensor slot for position sensing as well as a bayonet lock for easy replacement of the cap.
The inspiration for DHEF is the force and form fitting of a chameleon’s tongue in catching insects. Once the chameleon sized up its prey, its tongue shoots 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 forwards. This allows the tongue to adapt to the shape and size of the prey and firmly enclose it. The prey sticks to the tongue and is pulled in as though caught on a fishing line.