"Sandia National Laboratories has developed a cost-effective robotic hand that can be used in disarming improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The Sandia Hand addresses challenges that have prevented widespread adoption of other robotic hands, such as cost, durability, dexterity and modularity.
“Hands are considered the most difficult part of the robotic system, and are also the least available due to the need for high dexterity at a low cost,” Salisbury said. The Sandia Hand is modular, so different types of fingers can be attached with magnets and quickly plugged into the hand frame. The operator has the flexibility to quickly and easily attach additional fingers or other tools, such as flashlights, screwdrivers or cameras. Modularity also gives the Sandia Hand a unique durability. The fingers are designed to fall off should the operator accidentally run the hand into a wall or another object. “Rather than breaking the hand, this configuration allows the user to recover very quickly, and fingers can easily be put back in their sockets,” Salisbury said. “In addition, if a finger pops off, the robot can actually pick it up with the remaining fingers, move into position and resocket the finger by itself.” The operator controls the robot with a glove, and the lifelike design allows even first-time users to manipulate the robot easily. The robot’s tough outer skin covers a gel-like layer to mimic human tissue, giving the Sandia Hand the additional advantage of securely grabbing and manipulating objects, like a human hand.”