1978 – Pneumatic Inflatable End Effector – Keith Clark (American)

Above: Keith Clark demonstrates his design for an innovative end effector which would inflate inside, and so grip, a tubular truss structure.

Back in 1978, another type of end effector under study for the Space Shuttle's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) was actually a balloon. The sort of aluminium truss beams proposed for use in space construction are quite fragile, so Keith Clark of NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center has proposed using a balloon that would be inflated inside the beam. As it expanded it would press gently and "grasp" the beam, distributing the load across the beam rather than crushing on one or two points. Such a tool could easily be used to grapple anything that had an opening. The balloon would probably be a bladder coated with Kevlar to protect it against sunlight and punctures.


Pneumatic inflatable end effector Keith H. Clark et al
See full patent here.  
Patent number: 4273505
Filing date: Sep 22, 1978
Issue date: Jun 16, 1981


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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 at 5:48 pm and is filed under Pneumatics in Robots. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “1978 – Pneumatic Inflatable End Effector – Keith Clark (American)”

  1. Robin Clark Wright Says:

    thanks for post this about my Dad soo cool ๐Ÿ™‚
    [Added from facebook contact] Hey there I found my Dad on your website, Keith H. Clark with the end effector. It is pretty cool to google your Dad and find something usually i find only patents which is awesome to but it was nice to the pic and what you wrote. He is 83 now and doing pretty well he has early Alzheimers which make him repeat himself some but if you ask to describe things he help design from his years a NASA he doesn’t miss a beat ๐Ÿ™‚ He actually started work with the Army Missile Command in October of 1951 before Nasa and he retired in June of 1989. He work on the guidance systems for the Saturn V and tons more. I saw a interview with Frank Borman of Apollo 8 on When We Left Earth and he talked about the 400,000 engineers that worked to get them to the moon, my Daddy was one of them. He put in tons of hours sometimes 6 days a week and drove from Decatur to Huntsville (Huntspatch) back when there was nothing but farm road his said he made 16 turns just to get there before they built the highway!!! He said he alway felt sorry for people who hated their job because he said he hated to leave at quitting time and could not wait to get back the next morning ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyways thanks for posting sorry if i am longwinded about my Daddy but i am and always will be sooo proud of him ๐Ÿ™‚ Robin Clark Wright
    ..