“Human” hands for robots

"Human" hands for robots
© naftemporiki.gr ‘Human’ hands for robots

An innovative humanoid hand for robots with a “human” touch designed and developed by engineers at Michigan State University.

As we know, in industrial conditions, robots are used for tasks that include repetitive grip and handling objects;

at the end of the robot where a human hand would be located, there is a grab.

“The innovative humanoid hand design is a soft-hard hybrid flexible grip. It can produce more grip strength than a traditional “clean” soft hand and at the same time be more stable, for more precise handling of objects than others used for heavier objects”,

said Changyong Kao, lead author of the research and director of the “Laboratory for Soft Machines and Electronics’ at MSU.

The related research, entitled “Soft Humanoid Hands with Large Grasping Force Enabled by Flexible Hybrid Pneumatic Actuators”, was published in “Soft Robotics”.

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/soro.2020.0001

More generally speaking, soft grips -mainly used in environments with fragile, light objects of “naughty” shapes- have various disadvantages, such as limited stability and lack of grip power when carrying heavy loads.

Designing the new model, Kao and his team took into account a range of interactions between man and the environment, from fruit harvesting to medical care. It has been found that some procedures require safe but stable interaction with fragile objects; most grip systems are unsuitable for this.

Each finger of the humanoid hand consists of a flexible hybrid pneumatic actuator, or FHPA, which is pushed to bend by compressed air, creating an articulated motion frame, where each finger moves independently of the others.

“Traditional rigid grips for industrial applications generally consist of simple but reliable rigid structures that help produce high strength, high precision and repeatability”,

said Kao.

“The proposed soft humanoid hand showed excellent adaptability and compatibility in handling fragile and complex-shaped objects, while maintaining a high level of hardness to exert strong gripping forces to lift heavy loads.”

In practice, he said, the best elements of both sides are combined. The FHPA consists of both hard and soft components.

Kao believes the prototype would be useful in industries such as fruit cultivation, automated packaging, medical care, rehabilitation, robotic surgery, etc.

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