Researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) have developed a soft robotic arm capable of performing delicate tasks such as opening bottles.

Taking inspiration from bee honeycombs, the team created a so-called honeycomb pneumatic network (HPN) that pairs a honeycomb-like structure with a pneumatic network featuring industrial pneumatic components.

Source: University of Science and Technology of China (USTC)Source: University of Science and Technology of China (USTC)

When inflated, chambers in the pneumatic network enable the robotic arm to bend and move via the changing honeycomb structure. According to its developers, the robotic arm creates stable shapes, demonstrates quick response and large load bearing capacity, and is capable of operating in soft environments.

The researchers believe the robotic arm can be employed in delicate applications such as feeding, cleaning glass, opening bottle caps and industrial spraying and grinding operations, among others that would typically be a challenge for mechanical robotic arms that are stiff and rigid.

The research appears in the International Journal of Robotics Research.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com