A Locally-Adaptive, Parallel-Jaw Gripper with Clamping and Rolling Capable, Soft Fingertips for Fine Manipulation of Flexible Flat Cables

Flexible flat cables (FFC) are very popular for connecting different components in modern electronics (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc.). The manipulation of FFCs typically relies on highly trained workers that spend hours performing the same repetitive processes, or on autonomous robotic systems that are equipped with simple clamping mechanisms or pneumatically driven suction cups. Such robotic systems are difficult to program and reprogram and often rely on sophisticated sensing elements and complicated control laws. Moreover, the performance and robustness of such systems is far from sufficient, hindering their mass adoption. The manipulation of FFCs is also quite challenging. A good gripper should be able to pinch the cable steadily and execute insertion tasks of the cable connector with ease. The suction cup based solution is a good approach for holding the cable, but it makes the cable connector insertion very challenging as it can only apply limited shear forces. In this paper, we propose a locally-adaptive, pneumatic, parallel-jaw robot gripper equipped with fingertips that are able to both pinch the cable with a soft clamping mechanism and roll the cable surface on the soft fingertip structure until it reaches the desired connector. The gripper base accommodates a camera that allows for the recognition and pose estimation of the flat, flexible cables and other electronic components. The gripper is of low-cost and low-complexity.

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