Machine Design

Robotic hand has that human touch

A robotic hand with over 100 touch sensors replicates all the joints and movements of a human hand.

Robotic hand uses more than 100 touch sensors and 36 pneumatic muscles to simulate the human hand.

In North London, U.K., Shadow Robot Co. develops advanced robotic systems for applications such as medical research. But one day it could produce the first humanoid domestic robots.

The company's designers use compliant pneumatic actuators, otherwise known as air muscles, in their robotic systems. The robotic hand uses 36 of these air muscles to control 25 separate movements. Seventy-two valves control the flow of air in and out of each muscle. The valves sit inside the elbow of the arm.

The ultracompact size of valves from The Lee Co., Westbrook, Conn., lets designers embed them directly into the dexterous hand.

"The robot hand is self-contained, requiring only an air supply and 24-V power," says Hugo Elias, technical director at Shadow.

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