Nifty 3D Printed Flexible Robotic Finger

Check out this remarkable 3D printed robotic shape memory finger inspired by ... wait for it ... our very own human fingers.


(3D printed shape memory finger [2 leftmost])

Most robotic applications that contain shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators use the SMA in a linear or spring shape. In contrast, a novel robotic finger was designed in this paper using SMA plates that were thermomechanically trained to take the shape of a flexed human finger when Joule heated. This flexor actuator was placed in parallel with an extensor actuator that was designed to straighten when Joule heated.

The best of these three SMAs was able to apply a maximum fingertip force of 9.01N on average. A 3D CAD model of a human finger was used to create a solid model for the mold of the finger covering skin. Using a 3D printer, inner and outer molds were fabricated to house the actuators and a position sensor, which were assembled using a multi-stage casting process. Next, a nonlinear antagonistic controller was developed using an outer position control loop with two inner MOSFET current control loops. Sine and square wave tracking experiments demonstrated minimal errors within the operational bounds of the finger.

Although we're all familiar with robotic fingers, I guess I'd go back to the tentacle robots from HG Wells' amazing 1898 novel War of the Worlds to find some early thinking on the idea of a truly flexible biomimetic robotic member.

In case you missed by 2005 story on TerminatorBot CRAWLER robot, you might check it for another science fictional reference to robotic fingers.

From Anthropomorphic finger antagonistically actuated by SMA plates via KurzweilAI.

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