The manipulation of millimetric and sub-millimetric components presents several issues, often negligible at the macro-scale. Indeed, at the micro-scale, the high surface-to-volume ratio leads to the predominance of the superficial forces (e.g. electrostatic, van der Waals and capillary forces) over the gravitational force; therefore the manipulation of micro-parts is very challenging. The release is particularly a critical phase of the manipulation operation. In fact, the components often stick to the gripper and, since the gravitational force does not overcome the adhesion force, their release becomes uncertain and unreliable.
Starting from the prior art problems depicted above, our researchers have invented an innovative method for manipulating (grasping and releasing) micro-components, of different shape and dimension, by using vacuum forces; also they set up a new vacuum micro-gripping device adopting said method, realising an innovative micro-gripper able to cope with the micro-parts release issues.
Vacuum grippers are simple, cheap and allow the manipulation of a large variety of components as long as their surface is smooth and not porous. Due to the superficial forces, the release can be an issue (sticking), reducing therefore their possible range of applications. Many solutions have been implemented so far to improve the release phase, such as the use of a soft blow or additional tools, but their drawbacks make them unsuitable in several applications.
Our new vacuum manipulation device (micro-gripper) uses the same actuating system (a vacuum pump) for grasping the parts and controlling an innovative mechanical system to assist the release. The mechanical system is inside the gripper body and can move between two main positions, one of which allows the grasping of the component by vacuum and the other forces and improves its release as soon as the pump is turned oﬀ. It allows to manipulate micro-parts of diﬀerent shape and material.
Our micro-gripper is eﬀective, simple, low-cost, low-weight, easy to use and to be integrated inside a manipulation system.
The device allows the precise, reliable and safe manipulation of micro-parts, also of different shapes and materials, avoiding any considerable increase in weight nor excessive complication of the system. Our micro-gripper can be easily mounted on a robot or integrated in a manual or tele-operated manipulation system.
The micro-gripper developed may be applied in many fields since the manipulation of millimetric and sub-millimetric components is nowadays in use in several sectors, including for instance:
- electronics (e.g. (re-)manufacturing applications)
- biomedical devices
Readiness Level (TRL)
licensing, assignment, partnership for R&D projects
INVENTOR / TEAM
S. Ruggeri, I. Fassi, G. Fontana, C. Pagano, G. Legnani, CNR - Institute of Industrial Technologies and Automation (ITIA)