Research Highlight

A robot grasper that can climb pipes

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.113 Published online 22 August 2019

The grasper can perform a variety of in-hand operations.

© Govindan, N. et al

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in India have designed a robotic grasper that could potentially be used in various industrial and field applications such as pipe climbing and inspection1

Most of the existing shape conformable hands come with good grasp but don't provide within-hand manipulation. Such manipulation is required for tasks such as opening a bottle or turning a doorknob, assembling a pipe, or for fine movements like sliding or rolling an objects of different sizes, shapes, and weights. 

In their search for a robotic arm, the scientists, led by Asokan Thondiyath, developed a prototype of the grasper that consists of two hybrid jaws that could deftly grasp objects. 

Called ‘GraspMan’, it has a rigid inner structure with a flexible, active gripping surface. This enables it to conform to the geometry of an object and enables a secure hold and manipulation similar to a human hand. 

The grasper is versatile meaning it can grasp, roll or slide a range of objects of different dimensions. It is less complex than existing graspers with its uncomplicated design and ease of planning and control strategies. 

Experiments show that the robotic grasper has the capability to change its locomotion behaviour to adapt to the environment. Machines used in search-and-rescue operations and locomotory applications will also benefit from this robot. The researchers say that the combination of locomotion and manipulation gives the robot interesting features such as holding an object and walking and even arm swinging like baboons.


1. Govindan, N. & Thondiyath, A. Design and analysis of a multimodal grasper having shape conformity and within-hand manipulation with adjustable contact forces. J. Mech. Robotics. 11, 051012 (2019)