NASA?s interest in this technology stems from Subtopic: S4.02 Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling. This technology could benefit several NASA initiatives including in-space assembly, satellite service and salvage, space debris mitigation & elimination, gripping mechanisms for free-flyers (e.g. AstroBee) and spacecraft inspection. Of specific interest is the ISS Remote Inspection System (IRIS) being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, 2015). This system utilizes gecko-inspired adhesive feet to anchor IRIS to the micro-gravity environment of the ISS. The development of the ESG gripper would result in a significant performance increase in the adhesion of the feet in a low-cost, low-energy package. Another candidate JPL target for this technology is the In-Space Telescope Assembly project or other in-space assembly programs, as the gripper can function as an end-of-arm-tool (EOAT) for manipulation of large, flat objects such as positioning and holding of solar panels to a backbone truss. This technology is also particularly well-suited for satellite servicing and salvage, as the combined gecko and electrostatic gripping mechanisms are able to grip smooth rigid surfaces as well as thermal blankets.
Industrial manufacturing is rife with applications in which gripping an object is challenging or impossible with conventional grippers due to the shape or fragility of the object. Current solutions often rely on complex and expensive vision systems, vacuum or custom grippers, and/or repetitive, injury-prone manual labor. The ESG Gripper provides a simple and cost-effective solution to these situations. While there is a wide range of potential applications for adhesive gripping solutions in industrial automation, we have identified solar panels and glass manufacturing as the primary target markets due to the industries? versatility, expansiveness, and expressed interest in our solution. Other potential markets include aerospace and automobile manufacturing, packaging and warehousing, hazardous materials handling, palletizing applications, and medical device manufacturing. As an example, we will validate our work at the 2016 Amazon Picking Challenge to attract the interest of Amazon for pick-and-place tasks (see http://amazonpickingchallenge.org/).