Discover, Connect & Collaborate at TECHINNOVATION 2021

Intelligent Soft Robotic Gripping Solutions

Technology Overview

Various industries such as agri-harvesting, food handling sectors and e-commerce handle a wide range of products every day. These products come in a diverse range of shapes, sizes and packaging materials, and are mostly still handled by human as there is no one gripping solution in the market that is able to accommodate different products. In order to handle different products, multiple grippers and tool changers are required and this results in high operating cost.

This technology offer aims to resolve the limitations of current commercial grippers by developing universal soft robotic gripping solutions. Grippers with multiple gripping modes and adjustable grip poses have been developed. These features can be auto adjusted by the in-house object detection model and control system based on the shapes and sizes of the individual items being gripped. Fabricated with 3D printing technologies, the gripper and finger designs can be easily customized and optimized for specific gripping requirements.

The technology owner is currently looking for partners from the robotics (such as robotic arm and conveyor systems) and computer vision fields, as well as in the food or Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) manufacturing and packing lines.

Technology Features, Specifications and Advantages

Currently, 2 types of reconfigurable grippers - one for food-safe manipulation, and another one for Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) picking - have been developed.

Food-safe gripper:

  • Product Weight: 800 g
  • Gripping Width: 3-7 cm
  • Manipulating Weight: up to 1 kg
  • Number of Finger Actuators: 3
  • Finger Actuator Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)
  • Gripping Modes: Claw, Pinch and Scoop
  • Actuation Method: compressed air up to 400 kPa
  • Operating Temperature: up to 120°C
  • Compatibility: compatible with most of the commercial robotic arms (both collaborative robots and industrial robots)

FMCG Gripper:

  • Product Weight: 2.5 kg
  • Gripping Width: 5-30 cm
  • Extension of Palm Actuator with Suction Cup: 13 cm
  • Manipulating Weight: up to 2.5 kg (suction only), up to 1 kg (finger gripping only), up to 3 kg (both)
  • Number of Finger Actuators: 4
  • Finger Actuator Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)
  • Gripping Modes: gripping (parallel and circular) and vacuum suction
  • Actuation Method: compressed air, up to 500 - 750 kPa
  • Operating Temperature: up to 120°C
  • Compatibility: compatible with most of the commercial robotic arms (both collaborative robots and industrial robots)

The advantages of the reconfigurable grippers include:

  • Universal: The developed gripping solutions have reconfigurable gripping modes to accommodate a wide range of products with just one gripper.
  • Minimal Damage: Soft and compliant gripper fingers minimize damage to the products being gripped.
  • High Efficiency: The developed grippers are tested to show higher gripping efficiency as compared to other commercial grippers.
  • Cost-saving: The developed grippers can help the users to save up to 36% operating cost by eliminating the need of using multiple grippers to handle different products.
  • Highly Customizable: The grippers can be further customized and optimized based on specific applications and requirements from the users.
  • Automated Gripping Solutions: The gripping solutions can be computer vision-aided for a fully automated pick-and-place process, with minimal intervention required from human workers.

Potential Applications

The food-safe gripper can be used to handle most of the food items in e.g., central kitchens, food packing and packaging lines and agriculture farms for harvesting. It has been tested to grip at least 50 different types of food items with various shapes and sizes safely and stably, such as uncooked tofu, pudding, cake, strawberry, broccoli, sausage, raw egg, and assorted vegetables, with a success rate of 93%. Research has shown that the food packaging robotics market size is projected to reach USD 813.02 million during 2020-2024 and the demand for packaging automation is at a higher growth rate worldwide, especially in the APAC region. The global market for agricultural robots will reach USD 17 billion in 2027, in which harvesting applications will reach approximately USD 3.5 billion. Among them, the compound annual growth rate of the APAC region is as high as 24.5%, which ranks the highest in the world.

The FMCG gripper can be used for picking and sorting FMCG products, especially in the e- commerce sector where every online order consists of different types of products. The gripper has been tested to pick at least 30 different types of products with various shapes, sizes and types of packaging successfully, such as pouched products (e.g. a bag of coffee powder), tubed products (e.g. toothpaste), boxed products (e.g. a box of cereal), and bottled products (e.g. a bottle of shampoo). It can also handle products of different sizes, from as small as a piece of chocolate ball, to as big as a box of 500 g cereal. The market value for FMCG robotic packing in the APAC market is estimated to be at USD 1.1 billion and the global market value is worth USD 7.8 billion.
The customized gripping solutions can also be in various sectors such as pill picking and packing packaged foods into boxes or plastic bags for exporting, etc.


Customer Benefit

In light of pandemic periods such as now, human resources have become limited due to safety measures in workplaces such as factories. Therefore, there is a need for ‘digital workers’ to meet the productivity requirements. By adopting automation and robotic solutions, the users no longer face the problem of potential worker shortages and on top of that, the hygiene of the food items being handled can be guaranteed.

Benchmarking tests have been conducted to compare the grippers with other commercially available grippers. The results showed that the universal grippers can provide a 22% increase in gripping efficiency. Moreover, compared to using multiple grippers and tool changers to handle different products, the one-fits-all grippers can help users to save the operating cost by up to 36%. Based on one of our use cases analyses, the user who uses our universal gripper can save the operating cost up to S$150,000 yearly within 5 years period, compared to hiring human workers. Reconfigurable grippers also provide 100% gripping adaptability with its universal gripping function, which is a feature absent in most of the commercially available grippers.

Contact Person

Qian Qian Han


NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (NUS GRIP)

Technology Category

  • Foods, Processes
  • Manufacturing
  • Assembly / Automation / Robotics

Technology Readiness Level


robotic, gripper, food, food handling, soft robotics, automation, food assembly, food assembling, food packaging, agriculture, agri harvesting, harvesting, fmcg, e-commerce, reconfigurable, computer vision, vision system, gripping solution, gripping, reconfigurable, automated solution, customized gripping