SBIR Phase II: A Resilient and Underactuated Robotic Hand Capable of Both Power and Precision Grasping

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase II
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Barrett Technology Inc
625 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA, -
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
David Wilkinson
(617) 252-9000
Business Contact:
David Wilkinson
(617) 252-9000
Research Institution:

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project proposes a robotic hand based on a novel torque-switching mechanism and patented miniature motor controllers. The mechanism actively channels motor torque along different transmission paths and enables dependant and independent (time-discreet) control of both finger joints in a robotic hand to perform both power and pinch grasps. There is a growing need in industry for adaptable and flexible manufacturing capabilities in a dynamic environment. Industry generally uses single-axis grippers and end-effectors that are modified to pick up specific items in a highly-controlled environment. This requires exchanging multiple customized and expensive grippers via tool-changers. This project?s goal is to produce a paradigm shift in the materials-handling industry by introducing a highly flexible, affordable, and lightweight robotic gripper that can grasp and manipulate objects of varying size, shape, and stiffness. The Phase-II project objectives are to design and develop a prototype 3-fingered gripper using a novel torque-switching mechanism, optimized motors, multiple feedback sensors, and miniature control electronics, and to test and evaluate the prototype gripper in an industrial setting. This program will result in a compact, lightweight, and affordable robotic hand capable of grasping and manipulating a large range of objects. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project addresses the shortcomings of gripper devices available today which discourage the use of robotic systems, thereby undermining manufacturing productivity. The proposed solution improves manufacturing competitiveness by enabling easier adoption of robotic work cells in conventional markets such as light manufacturing and emerging markets such as the food and beverage industry. The societal impact will be felt in the field of education where robotics is recognized as a strategic motivator for children and young adults to enter into technical fields. Most robots are too large and dangerous to bring into a classroom. The proposed robotic hand will be very portable, safe, and exciting for both educators and students. A significant increase in gripper dexterity will make it an even more attractive motivator in the classroom and other secondary educational programs and workshops. A potential secondary application for this innovation is a more dexterous and lightweight hand prosthesis which could have a major societal impact. Finally, the ability to transmit torque through different paths in a miniature package and allow control of different functions with a single small actuator enables lightweight yet versatile machines and could have impacts beyond the field of robotics.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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