AsianScientist (Dec. 15, 2021) – If you’ve got your hands full, a new robotic invention can lend a helping hand, capable of human-level functions such as grasping objects and using scissors. The research team from South Korea detailed the technology in Nature Communications.
From a delicate touch to a strong gripping force, the human hand offers a varied range of functions, thanks to a complex combination of tactile sensations, intricate musculature and a quarter of all the bones in the body.
By mimicking these abilities, researchers hope to build intelligent robots and provide novel solutions for prosthetics and other industrial applications. However, additional parts are often needed to emulate human’s precise hand movements, complicating the design and proving difficult to integrate with other devices like robotic arms.
To forego the demand for external parts, Dr. Kim Uikyum from Ajou University and colleagues took a linkage-driven approach to creating a robotic hand with highly dextrous joint movements. By fitting together small motors within the palm itself, this configuration provided different levels of power and allowed for motions like tilting, flexing and folding.
Thanks to this flexibility, the robotic hand could hold an object as fragile as an egg or exert enough force to crush a soda can. Clutching items of diverse sizes and shapes, the robot’s range of functional grasps included the tripod grip used to hold a tennis ball or a pencil and the two-finger pinch for tiny salt grains or toy bricks.
With skills comparable to a human hand, the robotic device can also wield various tools, such as tweezers to pick up microchips, turn in the desired direction and slot them into a circuit board. It was also durable enough to lift 18-kilogram dumbbells and press a sensor for half an hour without losing strength.
Moreover, the hand is easily mounted to commercially available robotic arms, paving an avenue for further developments without severely driving up costs and manufacturing complications.
By combining cutting-edge engineering with market considerations, the researchers envision their design to broaden the applications of robotic hands, from assisting surgeries to automating industrial processes.
“The key advantage is that the hand exhibits high performance and the part configuration is integrated with the hand itself,” the authors concluded. “In the future, we will pioneer new research fields by performing tasks that have not been done before.”
The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2021) Integrated linkage-driven dexterous anthropomorphic robotic hand.
Source: Ajou University; Photo: Ajou University; Illustration: Oi Keat Lam/Asian Scientist Magazine.
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