These Soft Robotic Grippers Were Inspired by an Ancient Japanese Art Form
BU mechanical engineers borrowed techniques from kirigami paper-cutting art to create grippers that safely grasp different objects
Boston University mechanical engineers have developed a unique way to use an ancient Japanese art form for a very 21st-century purpose. Douglas Holmes, BU College of Engineering associate professor of mechanical engineering, studies how materials change shape when they are bent or warped by external forces. , Holmes and BU PhD student Yi Yang demonstrate how they were inspired by kirigami, the traditional Japanese art of paper cutting (cousin of origami paper-folding art), to design soft robotic grippers. By cutting sheets of plastic in specific shapes, and then bending them in a specific way, the plastic morphs into a gripper that can safely and securely pick up objects of various size, weight, shape, and fragility. Using the kirigami technique, they’ve developed grippers so small they can pick up a single grain of sand, and large enough to pick up a bottle of water. Holmes and Yang hope that this research will make a significant contribution to the emerging field of soft robotics.