Powerful human-like hands create safer human-robotics interactions

July 20, 2020

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Need a robot with a soft touch? A team of Michigan State University engineers has designed and developed a novel humanoid hand that may be able to help.

In industrial settings, robots often are used for tasks that require repetitive grasping and manipulation of objects. The end of a robot where a human hand would be found is known as an end effector or gripper.

"The novel humanoid hand design is a soft-hard hybrid flexible gripper. It can generate larger grasping force than a traditional pure soft hand, and simultaneously be more stable for accurate manipulation than other counterparts used for heavier objects," said lead author Changyong Cao, director of the Laboratory for Soft Machines and Electronics at MSU and assistant professor in Packaging, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

This new research, "Soft Humanoid Hands with Large Grasping Force Enabled by Flexible Hybrid Pneumatic Actuators," is published in Soft Robotics.

Generally, soft-hand grippers -- which are used primarily in settings where an object may be fragile, light and irregularly shaped -- present several disadvantages: sharp surfaces, poor stability in grasping unbalanced loads and relatively weak grasping force for handling heavy loads.

When designing the new model, Cao and his team took into consideration a number of human-environment interactions, from fruit picking to sensitive medical care. They identified that some processes require a safe but firm interaction with fragile objects; most existing gripping systems are not suitable for these purposes.

The team explained that the design novelty resulted in a prototype demonstrating the merits of a responsive, fast, lightweight gripper capable of handling a multitude of tasks that traditionally required different types of gripping systems.

Each finger of the soft humanoid hand is constructed from a flexible hybrid pneumatic actuator -- or FHPA -- driven to bend by pressurized air, creating a modular framework for movement in which each digit moves independently of the others.

"Traditional rigid grippers for industrial applications are generally made of simple but re- liable rigid structures that help in generating large forces, high accuracy and repeatability," Cao said. "The proposed soft humanoid hand has demonstrated excellent adaptability and compatibility in grasping complex-shaped and fragile objects while simultaneously maintaining a high level of stiffness for exerting strong clamping forces to lift heavy loads."

In essence, the best of both worlds, Cao explained.

The FHPA is composed of both hard and soft components, built around a unique structural combination of actuated air bladders and a bone-like spring core.

"They combine the advantages of the deformability, adaptability and compliance of soft grippers while maintaining the large output force originated from the rigidity of the actuator," Cao said.

He believes the prototype can be useful in industries such as fruit picking, automated packaging, medical care, rehabilitation and surgical robotics.

With ample room for future research and development, the team hopes to combine its advances with Cao's recent work on so-called 'smart' grippers, integrating printed sensors in the gripping material. And by combining the hybrid gripper with 'soft arms' models, the researchers aim to more accurately mimic precise human actions.
-end-
The co-authors of the paper include Xiaomin Liu, MSU student Shoue Chen, MSU Foundation Professor Xiaobo Tan from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Yunwei Zhao and Dexu Geng from Beihua University.

This research was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (1016788), MSU Strategic Partnership Grant, National Natural Science Foundation of China (51275004) and an MSU Startup Grant.

(Note for media: Please include a link to the original paper in online coverage: https://doi.org/10.1089/soro.2020.0001)

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 160 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

Follow MSU News on Twitter at
Michigan State University

Related Medical Care Articles from Brightsurf:

Six ways primary care "medical homes" are lowering health care spending
New analysis of 394 U.S. primary care practices identifies the aspects of care delivery that are associated with lower health care spending and lower utilization of emergency care and hospital admissions.

Anxiety and depression are associated with medical care avoidance during the pandemic
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been empirical and anecdotal reports of declines in both emergency and ambulatory medical visits.

Certification as a medical home: Does it make a difference in diabetes care?
Practices certified as medical homes have more systems and improved performance for diabetes care, but the differences are modest.

Hospitality, not medical care, drives patient satisfaction
Patients' ratings of hospitals and willingness to recommend them have almost no correlation to the quality of medical care provided or to patient survival rates, according to new Cornell University research.

Older undiagnosed sleep apnea patients need more medical care
Older adults with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea seek more health care, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Sustainable savings on medical care
Over eight years, patients covered under a global budget payment model for doctors and hospitals showed slower spending growth and better quality than comparable populations mostly under the traditional fee-for-service model.

Nursing home care cost significantly outpaces general inflation and medical care prices
One of the largest studies on out-of-pocket costs for nursing home care finds prices are high and rising faster than other medical care and consumer prices, reports a team of health policy researchers.

International medical graduates care for Medicare patients with greater health care needs
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital research team indicates that internal medicine physicians who are graduates of medical schools outside the US care for Medicare patients with more complex medical needs than those cared for by graduates of American medical schools.

Parents, kids actually agree about confidential medical care
Parents and their adolescent children actually agree with each other about preventive care and confidential medical services, except for abortion.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care providers and policymakers to slow down when it comes to allowing this technology in patient care settings.

Read More: Medical Care News and Medical Care Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.