The Best Robotic Hands Won’t Look Like Our Hands

Human hands work well for us humans most of the time, but they aren’t great at things like manufacturing. Robotic hands aren’t physically limited in the same way that humans hands are, however. Human-like robotic hands might be novel, but roboticists must look beyond these limitations to produce the best robotic hands for tasks in manufacturing.

The pros and cons of human hands

Human hands are just OK. They’ve served us well throughout our history, and they’re fascinating appendages.

We have opposable thumbs, which are very useful; this gives us a leg up on most animals in the animal kingdom. We can communicate with others using our hands: sign language, typing, and writing. We can hold heavy things firmly with relative ease, and we can hold fragile things delicately without breaking them.

About 1 out of 10 people are left-handed, and 1 out of 100 people are ambidextrous (able to use both hands equally). The human hand contains about 29 major and minor bones. Interestingly, not all human hands contain the same number of bones. It varies from person to person. Also, our fingers do not contain any muscles; the muscles that move fingers are in the palm and the forearm.

However, human hands have certain limitations.

For example you can’t rotate your hand 360-degrees. We have limited range of motion going front-to-back and side-to-side with our hands. We have limited dexterity — try picking up a tiny glasses screw without a pair of tweezers, or a credit card off a table. Our hands are relatively tough, but they can be injured; bones can break and tendons can tear. We can only grab things up to a certain size (the widest hand span for a human is 12 inches).

Robotic hands should be better

An article published by IEEE Spectrum makes the point that robotic hands do not need to be limited by human biology. Roboticists can find creative new ways to build robotic hands that can perform functions human hands could not.

Imagine holding an apple in your hand. Now imagine being able to rotate that apple in your hand without changing your grasp. Researchers from Standford University designed a non-anthropomorphic (meaning not human-like) robotic hand with “roller graspers” that can do just that.

It was even able to master the robotic hand stumping task of picking up a flat object from a flat surface.

Robotic hands don’t need to be like human hands, because they can be better.

They can have features like suction, rollers, hooks, and graspers. They can have an increased range of motion, a wider grip, and more precision. Robotic hands more can be stronger and more durable. They can boast different actuators that can accomplish things human hands physically can’t.

Humans and robots excel at different things, but they’re both necessary for manufacturing. Make sure that your Indramat system keeps running smoothly. We offer preventive maintenance, inspection, and repair for Indramat products. Call 479-422-0390, or contact us online.