Empire Robotics, Inc.: VERSABALL® Gripper

Empire Robotics, Inc.
Bill Culley – President, John Amend – CTO


VERSABALL® Grippers by Empire Robotics are extremely flexible robotic end-effectors that leverage the jamming phase transition of granular materials. They enable secure grasping and manipulation of widely varying objects with a single inexpensive tool. This term “jamming” refers to the ability of granular materials to undergo a reversible fluid-like to solid-like phase transition without a change in temperature. VERSABALL® Grippers exploit this phase transition by encasing a mass of granular material in a flexible membrane. When the grains are loosely combined, they yield under the sheer stress like a fluid. If they are packed together, they jam in position and resist applied stress like a solid. By controlling the air pressure within the membrane, a gripper can passively conform to objects of varying shape and then vacuum-harden to achieve a rigid grip.