A bioinspired snap-through metastructure for manipulating micro-objects

Micro-objects stick tenaciously to each other—a well-known show-stopper in microtechnology and in handling micro-objects. Inspired by the trigger plant, we explore a mechanical metastructure for overcoming adhesion involving a snap-action mechanism. We analyze the nonlinear mechanical response of curved beam architectures clamped by a tunable spring, incorporating mono- and bistable states. As a result, reversible miniaturized snap-through devices are successfully realized by micron-scale direct printing, and successful pick-and-place handling of a micro-object is demonstrated. The technique is applicable to universal scenarios, including dry and wet environment, or smooth and rough counter surfaces. With an unprecedented switching ratio (between high and low adhesion) exceeding 104, this concept proposes an efficient paradigm for handling and placing superlight objects. Nature teaches us how to design reliable grippers for moving and placing super-small objects that tend to stick to everywhere.