Applications of a vacuum-actuated multi-material hybrid soft gripper: lessons learnt from RoboSoft manipulation challenge

Saikrishna Dontu, Elgar Kanhere, Thileepan Stalin, Audelia Gumarus Dharmawan, Chidanand Hegde, Jiangtao Su, Xiaodong Chen, Shlomo Magdassi, Gim Song Soh, Pablo Valdivia Y. Alvarado*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soft grippers are garnering increasing attention for their adeptness in conforming to diverse objects, particularly delicate items, without warranting precise force control. This attribute proves especially beneficial in unstructured environments and dynamic tasks such as food handling. Human hands, owing to their elevated dexterity and precise motor control, exhibit the ability to delicately manipulate complex food items, such as small or fragile objects, by dynamically adjusting their grasping configurations. Furthermore, with their rich sensory receptors and hand-eye coordination that provide valuable information involving the texture and form factor, real-time adjustments to avoid damage or spill during food handling appear seamless. Despite numerous endeavors to replicate these capabilities through robotic solutions involving soft grippers, matching human performance remains a formidable engineering challenge. Robotic competitions serve as an invaluable platform for pushing the boundaries of manipulation capabilities, simultaneously offering insights into the adoption of these solutions across diverse domains, including food handling. Serving as a proxy for the future transition of robotic solutions from the laboratory to the market, these competitions simulate real-world challenges. Since 2021, our research group has actively participated in RoboSoft competitions, securing victories in the Manipulation track in 2022 and 2023. Our success was propelled by the utilization of a modified iteration of our Retractable Nails Soft Gripper (RNSG), tailored to meet the specific requirements of each task. The integration of sensors and collaborative manipulators further enhanced the gripper’s performance, facilitating the seamless execution of complex grasping tasks associated with food handling. This article encapsulates the experiential insights gained during the application of our highly versatile soft gripper in these competition environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1356692
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Dontu, Kanhere, Stalin, Dharmawan, Hegde, Su, Chen, Magdassi, Soh and Valdivia Y. Alvarado.


  • bio inspiration
  • food handling
  • lab to market
  • manipulation
  • RoboSoft competition
  • soft gripper
  • vacuum actuation


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