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Validating markets for sustainable sensing grippers in micro assembly

Project description

Getting a grip on the most tiny components

Technological advancements have resulted in the production of precision miniature parts and micro components. Too small to be handled by the human hand, even existing gripping technologies are facing the challenge of manipulating extremely small objects with dimensions smaller than the width of a human hair. The EU-funded STICK2SEE project is working to respond to the industrial needs for new handling concepts. The project will build on the technology developed during a previous European Research Council grant, SWITCH2STICK, which demonstrated in the lab the gripping of objects down to dimensions smaller than the thickness of a human hair. This function of micropatterns to handle micro-objects reliably is the groundbreaking new idea that will be validated for market readiness in the STICK2SEE project.

Objective

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.

Host institution

LEIBNIZ-INSTITUT FUER NEUE MATERIALIEN GEMEINNUETZIGE GMBH
Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
Address
CAMPUS D2 2
66123 Saarbruecken
Germany

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Region
Saarland Saarland Regionalverband Saarbrücken
Activity type
Research Organisations
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Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)