New Soft Robotic Hand Boasts Affordable Design and Human-Like Abilities, Portugal

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New Soft Robotic Hand Offers Affordable Design and Human-Like Abilities

Soft robotic systems are gaining popularity due to their ability to replicate the appearance, movements, and capabilities of humans and animals. However, many of these robots are difficult to produce on a large scale due to high component costs and complex fabrication processes. Addressing these challenges, researchers at the University of Coimbra in Portugal have developed a new soft robotic hand that is not only affordable but also easier to fabricate.

Pedro Neto, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained that while most robots are made of rigid materials, animals have both hard parts (skeletons) and soft parts (muscles). Taking inspiration from nature, the team integrated soft actuators with an exoskeleton, which can be produced using scalable techniques.

Compared to rigid robots, soft robotic systems are safer and more compatible with humans and animals in various environments. In the event of collisions with surrounding objects, humans, or animals, soft robots are less likely to cause significant damage or injuries.

The main objective of this recent work was to develop a soft robotic hand that is both safe and affordable. By achieving this, the hand can be deployed on a large scale, fueling new research and innovation in the field of robotics.

The researchers utilized finite element analysis to optimize the design of the hand before physically fabricating it, resulting in reduced prototyping costs. Regular 3D printing techniques were also employed to produce components in soft materials and molds in rigid materials.

The soft robotic hand is made up of various materials and features a carefully designed structure that replicates the appearance and functionality of human hands, including their movements and abilities. It consists of five soft actuators, each corresponding to a finger, and an exoskeleton that promotes finger bendability. The hand is equipped with an ON-OFF controller that maintains specified finger bending angles, enabling effective gripping of objects with varying shapes, weights, and dimensions.

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Preliminary evaluations of the robotic hand through simulations and experiments have been highly promising. It has successfully grasped numerous objects with different characteristics.

The primary contribution of this research lies in the integrated design-fabrication system that utilizes finite element analysis to optimize the design before fabrication. This achievement has the potential to increase the accessibility of soft robotic hands, lower costs, and eliminate time-consuming design-fabrication procedures that typically rely on resource-intensive iterative workflows.

Moving forward, the soft robotic hand developed by the team could be used by academic teams and individual roboticists to test new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and computational tools aimed at advancing robot abilities. Additionally, its design could pave the way for the low-cost fabrication of humanoid robots that can assist humans in their daily activities.

Neto and his colleagues plan to improve the fabrication of soft actuators and sensors to enhance the accessibility of soft robots to a wider audience. They are also exploring the control of soft robots using artificial intelligence.

The new soft robotic hand with its affordable design and human-like abilities marks a significant advancement in the field of robotics. With potential applications ranging from assisting humans in everyday tasks to advancing AI algorithms, this innovation opens doors to exciting possibilities in the world of soft robotics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

What is a soft robotic hand?

A soft robotic hand is a robotic device that replicates the appearance and functionality of a human hand using soft materials and integrated soft actuators.

What makes the newly developed soft robotic hand unique?

The newly developed soft robotic hand stands out for its affordability and ease of fabrication compared to other soft robotic systems. It combines soft actuators with an exoskeleton design, inspired by nature, to achieve human-like abilities.

What are the advantages of soft robotic systems over rigid ones?

Soft robotic systems are safer and more compatible with humans and animals in various environments. They are less likely to cause damage or injuries in collisions and can better mimic the movements and capabilities of living organisms.

How was the design of the soft robotic hand optimized?

The researchers utilized finite element analysis to optimize the design of the hand before physically fabricating it. This approach reduced prototyping costs and improved the overall efficiency of the fabrication process.

What are the features of the soft robotic hand?

The soft robotic hand consists of five soft actuators, corresponding to the fingers of a hand, and an exoskeleton that promotes finger bendability. It is equipped with an ON-OFF controller that maintains specified finger bending angles, enabling effective gripping of objects of different shapes, weights, and sizes.

What are the potential applications of the soft robotic hand?

The soft robotic hand can be used for academic research, testing new artificial intelligence algorithms, and advancing robot abilities. Additionally, its design could pave the way for low-cost humanoid robots that can assist humans in daily activities.

What future improvements are the researchers working on?

The researchers aim to enhance the accessibility of soft robots by improving the fabrication of soft actuators and sensors. They are also exploring the use of artificial intelligence for the control of soft robots.

How does the newly developed soft robotic hand contribute to the field of robotics?

The integrated design-fabrication system used in this research significantly reduces costs and eliminates time-consuming procedures. This advancement increases the accessibility of soft robotic hands and opens up exciting possibilities for research and innovation in the field of robotics.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

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