Since Adam and Eve’s infamous apple, gripping, handling and releasing objects has been a thoroughly human activity: the hand and fingers combine muscular action with sensing, complemented by feedback from visual monitoring. Modern automation technology, e.g. in production and micro assembly lines, is now facing the challenge of manipulating of extremely small objects, with dimensions typically smaller than the width of a human hair. Existing gripping technologies are running out of steam in this range: controlled handling is either impossible by conventional processes such as suction grippers, or decreased reliability leads to low yields and productivity. Industry is urgently looking for new handling concepts and this trend is predicted to intensify after the CORONA crisis when automation will gain in importance for ensuring reliable production.
The technology developed in the researcher’s original ERC Grant SWITCH2STICK turned out to be ideally suited for this purpose. Eduard Arzt’s team successfully created the fundamentals and first prototypes of gecko-inspired surfaces with switchable adhesive functions. As the technology is bioinspired it is highly energy-conserving and sustainable. Now, increased reliability during the handling process has become possible. Using novel materials for the surface structures, the research group has demonstrated in their lab the gripping of objects down to dimensions below the thickness of human hair. This function of micropatterns to handle microobjects reliably is the groundbreaking new idea which will be validated for market readiness in this proposal. Considering that the relevant industrial sector of automated micro assembly is already a multi-billion Euro market with a strong growth rate, a new solution is expected to have a large economic impact, especially in Europe where many market leading automation companies are based.
Field of science
- /social sciences/sociology/industrial relations/automation
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeERC-POC-LS - ERC Proof of Concept Lump Sum Pilot