Gecko Gripper

February 01, 2019
Gecko Gripper

OnRobot kicked off the new year by shipping pre-orders of its new Gecko Gripper, that uses millions of micro-scaled fibrillar stalks that adhere to a surface using powerful van der Waals forces—the same way that geckos climb. The Gecko Gripper lets robots pick up flat, smooth objects with significant energy savings over existing grippers such as vacuum grippers, which require compressed air that is costly, power-intensive, and bulky.

The Gecko Gripper interfaces with any robot and can pay for itself in eight months in cost savings for electricity to compress air alone. Now being sold to manufacturing companies worldwide, the Gecko Grippers can affix to a wide range of surfaces including fragile items that vacuum grippers can’t handle. The Gecko Gripper also offers competitive advantages over electrostatic grippers, which are weaker and require high-voltage systems to operate.

Based on the nimble gecko lizards native to the Southern Hemisphere, in its initial design the Gecko Gripper progressed from a Stanford research project to the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab to industry through multiple collaborations. The original NASA use-case was for salvaging and repairing satellites such as solar panels, given the Gecko Gripper’s unique ability to operate in a vacuum. Perception Robotics created the first industrial grippers with new polymer research that increased gripping strength by five times. Perception was then acquired by OnRobot, which is dedicated to developing and commercializing innovation that helps manufacturers take full advantage of collaborative robotics.

“The market reaction to the Gecko Gripper has been extremely positive,” says Kristian Hulgard, OnRobot’s general manager for Americas. “We see the gripper now challenging traditional application and material handling design in a wide range of delicate tasks such as picking up porous and fragile objects like PCB boards.”

Hulgard explained that the Gecko Gripper excels at picking up objects with holes that vacuum grippers cannot address as they lose suction when air passes through openings in the object. 

Related Glossary Terms

  • flat ( screw flat)

    flat ( screw flat)

    Flat surface machined into the shank of a cutting tool for enhanced holding of the tool.

  • robotics


    Discipline involving self-actuating and self-operating devices. Robots frequently imitate human capabilities, including the ability to manipulate physical objects while evaluating and reacting appropriately to various stimuli. See industrial robot; robot.


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