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Robotic Finger Mimics Real One in Appearance and Function

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:06AM

Many examples of science fiction tell us that robots will look like humans, even to the point that they can be confused with actual people. That is not at all the case with today's robots, but work is being done to narrow the gap, in part to recreate the functionality of our bodies. Now researchers at Florida Atlantic University have created a robotic finger that both looks and operates like a real finger.

This new finger was built using shape memory alloy (SMA), a CAD model of a real finger, a 3D printer, and a method to train the SMAs. With the 3D printer, the researchers built the inner and outer molds of a finger to hold the SMA actuators. Shape memory alloys can be trained to return to a specific shape when heated. In this case one actuator was trained to extend straight out when heated, and the other trained to curve when heated. An electric current passing through the actuators provides the heat necessary for manipulating the SMA plates, with the power source at the base of the finger, keeping it all rather light, while still being strong and dexterous.

One day we may see this technology brought to prosthetic arms, but for now the target is for undersea operations. For the actuators to flex quickly, the finger must be able to cool rapidly, which is easier to achieve underwater than in the air.

Source: Florida Atlantic University

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