Adam Allevato and his team of fellow mechanical engineering students at Colorado State University in Fort Collins have created a human-like hand that can be operated in environments that are toxic to humans.
The Glove-Operated Digitally Synced Hand is a mechanical device whose movement can be controlled remotely. The hand was created for use in environments that are too dangerous for humans, but still need the dexterity of a human hand. The students see the hand as an effective tool for bomb diffusing and for work in contaminated nuclear reactors.
Click the image below for a close-up view of the Glove-Operated Digital Hand:
The PIC for the hand is mounted on one of two protoboards along with the other required electrical components, and the protoboards are mounted vertically in the base of the forearm.
This is very cool and a good candidate for lots of different applications. And I'm curious about the rapid prototyping angle. Any intel on what systems/materials they used to produce the glove and why they choose the 3D printing route?
This is a great invention, and one that is a good example of what robotics are so good at: whatever we humans can't do, either because we'd not survive the environment, or sending us there is too costly (e.g., outer space), for example. Like Beth, I'd love to know more about the materials.
Thanks, Rob, for that info. How cool that Beth was right and it does use 3D printing. I'm also intrigued by the mix of materials among metals, rubber and whatever films are used for flex sensors these days. From the photo, it looked like a mix of metals and plastics of some kind. It will be interesting to see what else Adam has to say.
Thanks for showing interest in our project. Although it appears that the palm of the hand is made of metal, it is in fact the 3D-printed ABS that has been painted silver. We wanted to show that if this was a production device, the hand would most likely be made of metal and molded plastic, instead of rapid-prototyped material. Even the pins holding the finger joints together were made from plastic, but again, in the final product metal would probably be utilized.
Our team leader modeled the parts of the hand using Creo (Pro/ENGINEER) and exported to STL files for the printing. The printer filled the inside of the parts with a honeycomb-like structure. I was not the manufacturing lead on the project so I can't speak any more on the printing process, but I've asked our leader (who did the manufacturing) to come and comment regarding the printing.
The main reason that we chose to use rapid prototyping was because of the flexibility and speed it offered. We were able to make complex internal shapes (particularly the paths that the tension wires took through the palm) and were able to go through 4 design revisions within the course of 12 weeks or so. The speed was crucial because there was not much documentation available on how to design a robot like the one we were trying to build.
Talk about a shoestring budget! Using rubber bands from someone's braces is a cost-cutting technique that I hadn't heard of before. Kudos to you and your team, Adam. There must be a lot of engineering departments that need people who know how to get a job done with such thriftiness.
Interestingly enough, using rubber bands from braces worked extremely well for what we needed in this project. I'm sure that a more commercially viable solution could be found, but the only problem that we have had with them was that they wear out after being in place for too long. They are stretched a bit beyond their optimal operating length.
Great project Adam and team! I would think at least one of you has to be from the electrical engineering department with all the microcontrollers and software involved. Am I right?
Being an electrical engineer myself but having no experience with Xbee, I am wondering if you weighed the pros and cons of using WiFi instead of Xbee for your wireless interface protocol.
All of our group members are mechanical engineering majors. Two of us are double majors, but in engineering science with space and education concentrations. No one in the group has taken beyond Physics II (electromagnetism) and Circuit Design I (a requirement for MEs at CSU). None of us have taken programming classes in college. The fact that our group and many other groups in the class used complicated circuitry and programming speaks to the excellent student body and the ability of our teachers and TAs.
In doing preliminary research, I found that there was a lot of readily available documentation for Xbees but had more trouble finding anything regarding Wi-Fi. Additionally, because the XBees could essentially be used as an "invisible wire" this was the route that we chose to take for our project.
Great job!! I'm very impressed with the work of a team of MEs with no or little programming and little electrical experience was able to successfully accomplish in those areas. How did the team make decisions on selecting the electrical components? For example, how did you select the PIC processor and the Ardunio board? Did you use the microcontroller on the Arudnio board or only the PIC processor?
Choosing which microcontrollers to use was very straightforward. First of all, it was a requirement of the project that we use at least one PIC controller. The Arduino was an ideal choice because of the number of analog inputs it had (to receive information from the flex sensors) and because I (the group's programmer) had some hobby experience with C and C++ programming.
So, yes, we understand that our project may not hold up to intense heat or radiation, but we did the best we could within the constraints of time and the project requirements.
Great project and good video, but some of the comments lead me to believe many readers do not realize just how pervasive computers and logic controllers are in a modern factory. Our machine maintence mechanic often has to setup and/or reprogram logic controllers, particularly on safety devices. Granted, it is nowhere near as sophisticated as this team dealt with, but it is 10x more complex than engineers had to deal with when I first entered manufacturing.
Great job on the hand project. You should consider other computing platforms if this is to really be used in harsh environments. The pieces could be made of corrosion resistant alloys OK. The PIC would not hold up in a high temperature or high radiation environment.
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