The paper describes an innovative fixture created within the AUTORECON project of the European Commission's 7th Framework Program. The fixture is designed to respond to the automotive industry's needs of high modularity and full flexibility, by allowing the secure multishape grasping of a very wide range of (often large and heavy) metal workpieces typical for car-assembly operations. The fixture is used as an end-effector of an industrial robot, which in turn acts in cooperation with other machines, such as other robots performing machining or other processes on the part. The fixturing device is both a highly reconfigurable structure and a robotic mechanism: moving as a programmable robot to reconfigure and acting as a supporting structure once a hold on the part has been established. This dual functioning has been made possible by the development of a key component, a stepless lockable revolute joint, described herein. In order to get a readily modifiable system, all parts of the fixture are designed as modules. Prototypes of the main parts and the whole fixture have been fabricated and experiments validating the design are reported.

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