3-D Printed Octopus Suckers Help Robots Stick | Octopus Chronicles, Scientific American Blog Network: Rather than attempt to replicate the octopus’s very keen sense and control, the researchers designed a self-sealing sucker. Still activated by a central vacuum, these suckers are outfitted with individual movable plugs. The plug automatically seals the suction cup closed if it is not touching anything, and it opens when the suction cup comes into contact with an object, allowing pump-driven suction to start. By focusing the suction action on only those cups that are in direct contact with the desired object, this approach also increases the pressure each of those active cups receives.
To get just the right combination of strength and precision, the researchers have been building their prototypes with the help of a multi-material 3-D printer.