Robotic hands hold great promise for various applications, but their mechanical complexity still limits their usability. The new air-powered hand is much simpler, but still dexterous enough to be used to play video games.
In a conventional electronic robotic hand, a separate control line usually has to be routed to each finger. This requires them to be bulkier, more power-hungry, and overall harder to use than usual, plus it makes them more expensive to manufacture.
Led by Asst. Professor Ryan D. Sochol, researchers at the University of Maryland set out to develop a less complicated but still capable alternative. The result is a 3D-printed three-fingered soft robotic hand that can independently move each of its fingers in response to changes in air pressure.
A separate compressor pumps air into the hand only through a single rubber hose. At the fingertip of that faucet are three no electricity device known as “liquid transistor”. Each of these transistors is designed to open and let air flow into its respective finger, responding to different air pressures – low, medium or high.
As the air flows in, the finger contracts and points downward. Thus, by varying the pressure of the air being pumped into the hand, you can selectively activate any finger. The complete cessation of airflow causes all three fingers to rise to the neutral position.
In a demonstration of their creation, Sochol and his team used their hands to press buttons on the original system Nintendo controller, successfully completing the first level of the game. Super Mario Bros electronic games. Moreover, they can complete it in less than 90 seconds.
Scientists are now hoping to adapt the technology for use in applications such as customizable prostheses, surgical instruments and rehabilitation devices… and they are helping the other groups easily do the same thing.
“We freely share all of our design files so that anyone can easily download, modify on demand, and 3D print it – whether with their own printer or through a printing service. like us – all the soft robots and flexible circuit elements from our work,” says Sochol. “We hope that this open source 3D printing strategy will expand the accessibility, dissemination, reproducibility and adoption of soft robots with integrated fluid circuits and thus, accelerate the ministry in this area.”
The study is described in an article that was recently published in the journal Scientific advance.
Source: University of Maryland