Design of an Anthropomorphic Robotic Hand for Space Operations

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Robotic end-effectors provide the link between machines and the environment. The evolution of end-effector design has traded off between simplistic single-taskers and highly complex multi-function grippers. For future space operations, launch payload weight and the wide range of desired tasks necessitate a highly dexterous design with strength and manipulation capabilities matching those of the suited astronaut using EVA tools.

The human hand provides the ideal parallel for a dexterous end-effector design. This thesis discusses efforts to design an anthropomorphic robotic hand, focusing on the detailed design, fabrication, and testing of an individual modular finger with considerations into overall hand configuration. The research first aims to define requirements for anthropomorphism and compare the geometry and motion of the design to that of the human hand. Active and passive ranges of motion are studied along with coupled joint behavior and grasp types. The second objective is to study the benefits and drawbacks of an active versus passive actuation systems. Tradeoffs between controllability and packaging of actuator assemblies are considered. Finally, a kinematic model is developed to predict tendon tensions and tip forces in different configurations. The esults show that the measured forces are consistent with the predictive model. In addition, the coupled joint motion shows similar behavior to that of the human hand.