In designing the new hand system, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), focused on robustness. They may have just built the toughest robot hand yet.
The DLR hand has the shape and size of a human hand, with five mechanically different fingers powered by a web of 38 tendons, each connected to an individual motor on the forearm.
The main capability that makes the DLR hand different from all other robot hands is that it can control its stiffness. The motors can tension the tendons, allowing the hand to absorb violent shocks. In one test, the researchers hit the hand with a baseball bat—a 66 G impact. The hand survived.
The DLR team didn’t want to build an anatomically correct copy of a human hand, as other teams have. They wanted a hand that can perform like a human hand.