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Although robots that handle sensitive objects are often equipped with soft robotic grippers, these rubber-like grippers unfortunately reduce positioning accuracy and get dirty quickly. Marcel Schuck now wants to solve this problem with contactless robot grippers in his no-touch robotics project at ETH Zurich. This is made possible by ultrasonic waves that generate a pressure field. Superimposing the waves creates pressure points that cause small parts to float in this “acoustic trap”.

Robot grippers capable of contactless handling of highly sensitive objects in the micro range could be used in the watch and semiconductor industries, for example. They are doubly interesting from an economic perspective as they result in less waste, improve production quality and can be used flexibly. Production has required separate high-precision grippers for almost every new part shape to date. With the ultrasonic gripper, neither the grippers nor the robot arm itself have to be very precise, since the software-controlled ultrasonic waves take care of exact positioning. Schuck now plans to make the “magic robot” ready for the market together with potential industrial customers.