Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design introduces highly sensitive, electrically-operated robot gripper for the food industry; design eliminates need for pneumatics, reducing power consumption and waste

Sample article from our R&D/Patents

MUNICH , April 27, 2023 (press release) –

Force-sensitive, dynamic, energy efficient and with a range of applications – these qualities are what distinguish the new robot gripper created by the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM. It can transport fragile objects from one production step to the next without damaging them. The gripper is specially designed for the food industry, where careful handling of fragile products helps to avoid waste. The electric drive makes costly pneumatics obsolete. The robot gripper will be presented at the joint Fraunhofer booth at the Hannover Messe 2023 from April 17–21 (Hall 16, Booth A12).

Fraunhofer IEM is researching intelligent gripping systems. At the Hannover Messe 2023, it is presenting an innovative robotic gripper that does not use complex pneumatics.

The Fraunhofer IEM gripper transports fragile objects from one production step to the next without damaging them.
Being able to transport, sort and pack fragile food automatically is no mean feat. The robot must handle the products quickly and dynamically, be it eggs, meringues, meatballs, cookies, pralines, donuts or anything else, without damaging them with pressure marks or other blemishes. As part of a project funded by the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, researchers at Fraunhofer IEM in Paderborn have developed a robot gripper, designed for use in the food industry. The system will be presented at the Hannover Messe 2023 at the joint Fraunhofer booth (Hall 16, Booth A12), where it will be displayed as part of a cobot workstation, moving chocolate-covered marshmallows without damaging their fragile coating.

The gripper system can be set up with two, three or four fingers and adapted for a range of tasks and purposes – meaning that it could also be used for the automated handling of other fragile products such as glassware. “The fingers have a plastic-based, soft and flexible coating, which enables them to keep a delicate grip on fragile materials and avoid damaging them. The robot gripper is also extremely dynamic and can easily be incorporated into production processes. It maintains the required balance between speed and sensitivity at all times,” says Dr. Christian Henke, head of the Scientific Automation department at Fraunhofer IEM. Precise and dynamic control technology enables targeted finger movement and complex product control. Sensors integrated into the fingers determine the amount of pressure required.

Saving resources with electric power
The special advantage of the system: the gripper is not operated pneumatically, but electrically. In this way, it works energy-efficiently and uses existing power connections. “Until now, gripper systems have been powered pneumatically, which uses a lot of energy.

Generating pressurized air is less efficient – even less so due to frequent leakages in the lines,” explains the engineer.

Safety barriers not required for production
The system’s spatial radius of action can be expanded with a linear axis, i.e., a horizontal track. To do this, the robot gripper is mounted on a vertical lifting column, which is attached to the linear axis. The gripper is suitable for safe human-robot collaboration thanks to its sensor-based environment recognition system. This is not the case for the axes (both the linear axis and the lifting column), however. To render the entire workspace collaborative, the researchers have developed a 360-degree environment recognition system that monitors the full length and height of the axes and can be integrated into the base of the linear axis. “With this multi-sensor system, which includes distance and thermografic sensors, the entire cobot and axis structure can work collaboratively. This means that businesses don’t need to install safety barriers,” says Henke. “The gripper can either be combined with the linear axis and multi-sensor system or used on its own.” Initial tests have been successful, and the Fraunhofer IEM team is now looking for partners to manage bringing the robot gripper to market.

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM (
Research News April 2023 special issue for the Hannover Messe 2023 - Highly sensitive robot gripper: No need of pneumatics [ PDF  0.22 MB ] 
Digital press kit for the Hannover Messe 2023
Kirsten Harting-Stuke
Head of PR and Communications

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM
Zukunftsmeile 1
33102 Paderborn, Germany

Phone +49 5251 5465107

Send email

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.

See our dashboard in action - schedule an demo
Jason Irving
Jason Irving
- SVP Enterprise Solutions -

We offer built-to-order r&d/patents coverage for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation.

About Us

We deliver market news & information relevant to your business.

We monitor all your market drivers.

We aggregate, curate, filter and map your specific needs.

We deliver the right information to the right person at the right time.

Our Contacts

1990 S Bundy Dr. Suite #380,
Los Angeles, CA 90025

+1 (310) 553 0008

About Cookies On This Site

We collect data, including through use of cookies and similar technology ("cookies") that enchance the online experience. By clicking "I agree", you agree to our cookies, agree to bound by our Terms of Use, and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. For more information on our data practices and how to exercise your privacy rights, please see our Privacy Policy.