Rob Scharff, a graduate of Delft University of Technology, has developed a 3D printed soft robotic hand that uses air chambers to sense and respond to human pressure.
Printed as a single piece using selective laser sintering (SLS), a method that melts powder using a laser to form the shape of a product, the palm of the hand contains integrated air chambers that work like bellows, responding to the pressure applied when held by a human hand.
In a handshake, for example, the fingers will grip more or less, depending on how firm the handshake is.
“This shaking of hands is used as a metaphor to show how the technology can be used to improve human-robot interaction,” says Scharff.
Although it’s still a prototype, Scharff is continuing to develop the technology for use in 3D printed gloves that could help people learn to grip objects again.
The hand was created as part of Scharff’s project that focuses on the ways robots can be integrated with more tactile materials to improve robot-human interactions.
“This project explores the possibilities of 3D printing bellow-shaped air chambers in a flexible material to be used as actuators or sensors,” says Scharff. “The potentialities of this technology are presented in a soft robotic hand that is able to shake hands with people -This shaking of hands is used as a metaphor to show how the technology can be used to improve human-robot interaction.”