Gripper based on a ‘fractal vice’ could let robots securely grasp any shape

A 110-year-old patent has inspired a new robotic hand that can securely grip objects of any shape without the need for complex motorised joints.

The inspiration for the device dates back to 1913, when a now-expired US patent was granted on an invention for “obtaining intimate contact with, engaging, or clamping bodies of any shape”. The original design consists of a nested arrangement of pivoting semi-circles in diminishing sizes, each of which could individually rotate to form a contour that securely grasps any shape.

Joel Burdick at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena happened to see a …


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