Just in from Dutch Design Week 2015: Company Soft Robotics introduced a soft 3D printed robotic hand that responds to human grip.
Rob Scharff, a graduate of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, presented the results of his Soft Robots research project at Dutch Design Week last week. Unveiling a 3D printed hand that can respond to human touch, the scene seems very surreal. However, as Scharff described in an interview with Dezeen:
“Robots are becoming omnipresent in our lives. This makes it very interesting and important to think about robotics from a design perspective.”
That explains why Scharff’s creation is so important. While the hand itself may not be so practical—it looks like it belongs of a Fortune Teller Machine, ever ready to shake the hand of passers-by. Robots of today are often very stiff, and unnatural. Their movements are unusual and create a very strong wall between technology and user. By exploring soft robotics, robots can not only become more realistic and familiar, they can create a new style of interaction. A robot that looks less menacing and, well, robotic could open a world of possibilities.
So how does it work?
The palm of the hand is filled with small air chambers that act like old-time bellows. When the hand is gripped, the chambers respond with a proportional increase in pressure. The wrist is able to rotate in both directions, and the fingers and thumb can function separately.
The hand was printed using selective laser sintering (SLS), by which powder was melted into the shape of the hand using a laser. One great example of possible usages is in custom-printed gloves, for the purpose of helping people learn how to physically grip objects after an injury or incident. Scharff adds that the design could be applied to a number of areas, including “orthotics, prosthetics, care robots, exploratory robots and industrial grippers.”
The real test of this design will be in how it is put to use. As Scharff said, there are many real-world uses for such technology. Hopefully they can become a reality.
License: The text of "Soft Robotics: Shake Hands With 3D Printed Robot Hand" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.