Robotic hand can lift a thousand times its own weight; see the video

Italian scientists have developed the prototype of a robotic hand, with flexible artificial muscles, which can move with precision and lift up to a thousand times its own weight.

Technologies like these can help in the development of super-strong and realistic prostheses, or even human-like robots.

The research results were published in the journal Science Robotics.

Muscles are actually tiny actuators—components that convert energy into movement. Called GRACEs (GeometRy-based Actuators that Contract and Elongate or something like “Geometry-based actuators that contract and elongate”), they are soft membranes that inflate and deflate.

They are created by 3D printing, with a flexible resin material, which allows them to act like a muscle. Several GRACEs, of 18 different sizes, were combined to form a hand, with fingers and wrist, governed by a mathematical model created by the researchers.

In tests, an actuator weighing just 8 g was able to lift 8 kg while maintaining humanoid movements.

By applying pressure to the different membranes, the hand can bend the fingers, twist the palm, and rotate the wrist.

mao - Corrado De Pascali et al.  - Corrado De Pascali et al.

Prototype managed to lift weight while maintaining the smoothness and precision of human movements

Image: Corrado De Pascali et al.

GRACE actuators are different from previous generations of artificial muscles in that their membranes include pleats that bend and unfold, giving them more strength and range of motion. One of the innovations is the choice of a flexible resin — until then, more rigid materials were used.

“We took traditional artificial muscle and developed a new class of artificial muscles, made from a single monolithic component,” said lead author Corrado De Pascali of the Italian Institute of Technology.

*With information from New Scientist

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