Tuning the Release Force of Microfibrillar Adhesives by Geometric Design

Abstract Switchable micropatterned adhesives exhibit high potential as novel resource-efficient grippers in future pick-and-place systems. In contrast with the adhesion acting during the “pick” phase, the release during the “place” phase has received little research attention so far. For objects smaller than typically 1 mm, release may become difficult as gravitational and inertial forces are no longer sufficient to allow shedding of the object. A compressive overload can initiate release by elastic buckling of the fibrils, but the switching ratio (ratio between high and low adhesion force) is typically only 2–3. In this work, new microfibrillar designs are reported exhibiting directional buckling with high switching ratios in the order of 20. Their functionality is illustrated by in situ optical observation of the contact signatures. Such micropatterns can enable the successful release of small objects with high placement accuracy.