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NEWS
Improved Robotic Hand Captures Top Award
November 12, 2009

The Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) has captured another top award for its updated innovative robotic hand that can automatically change its grasping force using compressed air.


The improved fully articulated robotic hand RAPHaEL 2 can firmly hold objects ranging from a soup can to a raw egg. It uses force and position feedback to automatically control the grasping force and finger position.

A team of five undergraduate students recently won First Place in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Student Mechanism and Robot Design Competition at the International Design Engineering Technical Conference. The winning entry was RAPHaEL 2, a second-generation version of a robotic hand that previously won an award from the Compressed Air and Gas Institute.

Held in San Diego, the ASME competition included undergraduate and graduate school teams. RoMeLa bested graduate student teams from MIT and the University of California Berkeley, and an undergraduate team from Purdue University, said Dennis Hong, director of RoMeLa and an associate professor with the Virginia Tech mechanical engineering department.

Student team members, all mechanical engineering majors, are Kyle Cothern of Fredericksburg, Va., a junior; Carlos Guevara of El Salvador, now a graduate student at Virginia Tech; Alexander McCraw of York, Pa., now graduated; Taylor Pesek of Richfield, Ohio, a sophomore; and Colin Smith of Reston, Va., now a graduate student at Virginia Tech.

The RAPHaEL (Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments) series robotic hand is powered by compressed air and a novel accordion type tube actuator. Because the hand’s grasping force and compliance is adjusted by changing the air pressure, it does not require the use of motors or other expensive and bulky actuators, Prof. Hong said.


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