Bionic grippers for automation

The NanoForceGripper by Festo is modeled off of the gecko and birds to improve accuracy and durability for better robotic product or part handling.


The NanoForceGripper by Festo is modeled off of the gecko and birds to improve accuracy and durability. Courtesy: FestoFesto's NanoForceGripper can be used and applied in automation technology with the NanoForceGripper.

Gripping, holding, and setting down object are vital production processes that are performed using automation technology. Conventional gripper solutions, however, are not always very energy-efficient when it comes to their gripping force to weight ratio. Nature, on the other hand, abounds with perfect examples of principles of efficiency. Festo’s mission with the Bionic Learning Network is to transfer these principles to automation technology. This is because the best way of optimizing energy consumption in industry is to exploit existing potential in production processes. 

With the NanoForceGripper, engineers from the Festo Bionic Learning Network have developed a gripper whose suction cup-like components are modelled on the pads of a gecko. NanoForceGrippers cling to the surfaces of the object to be gripped thanks to tiny, intermolecular forces of attraction called van der Waals forces. A key component of the gripper is the Gecko Nanoplast tape on its underside with 29,000 gripping elements per cm².

Once a part is gripped, it is permanently held by the gripper without the need for energy. A counteracting force is only needed when it is time to release the bond and set down the gripped object. The tape is peeled off by means of a structure with Fin Ray Effect, which is modelled on the tail fin of a fish. The spring forces are released by a push-push mechanism that deforms the structure from a straight surface to a curved one. The holding surface covered by the tape becomes increasingly smaller until the gripped object is released gently. Energy-free holding and energy-efficient gripping are an innovation for grippers that work with a push-push mechanism. In particular, this type of energy-free holding of objects was not previously possible. 

The NanoForceGripper can grip especially delicate objects with smooth surface such as glasses or displays without almost any energy. The new technology complements the existing pneumatic gripping technology and can be used as needed and as appropriate to the application.


- Edited by Chris Vavra, Control Engineering, 

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