3D Printed Robot Hand Amazingly ‘Human-Like’

Scientists developed a robotic hand made from soft materials with an advantage over conventional metal robots. First author Robert Katzschmann, professor of robotics at ETH Zurich, claims it is the most human-like robotic hand available, featuring 3D-printed bones, ligaments, and tendons.

The 3D printing mixture of hard and soft parts was accomplished by cross-layering up to four plastics. The hand was printed using slow curing, which gives plastics more time to set and results in greater durability. The firm but soft robotic part can scale, unlike other soft robots that struggle to maintain their physical properties at larger sizes. The research was published Nov. 15 in the journal Nature.

An image montage of the soft robotic hand holding a marker pen and a water bottle. (Image credit: ETH Zurich/Thomas Buchner)

Since the hands are soft, there is less risk of injury when handling fragile goods. Currently, most robots are inflexible and lack the intricate internal structures needed to perform complex movements and tasks humans can easily perform.

The scientists set about 3D printing a range of devices that mimic the complexity of biomechanics found in nature. Cameras and lasers guide the printer so that each layer is built up with the correct thickness.

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