by Jeff Eckert
Pneumatic Robotic Hand
RoMeLa’s pneumatic hand.
No, this is not a “
how-many-robots-does-it-take” joke. It’s actually
a development from the Robotics and
Mechanisms Laboratory (www.me.
vt.edu/romela) at Virginia Tech.
RAPHaEL (for Robotic Air Powered
Hand with Elastic Ligaments, if you
must know) is unusual in that it’s
powered by compressed air and an
accordion-type tube actuator.
A microcontroller governs the
grip force by lowering or raising the
air pressure (up to 60 psi), so it can
be used to pick up things as substantial as a can of Spam or as delicate as
a raw egg. The air actuation also
helps the hand follow the contours
of anything it grabs, so you get a
The device is so impressive that it
won first place in the 2008-2009
Compressed Air and Gas Institute’s
Innovation Award Contest. For some
reason, the four members of the
development team had to share a
$2,500 award, but the College of
Engineering received $8,000.
The gripper is part of a larger
project with an equally machinated
acronym, Cognitive Humanoid Robot
with Learning Intelligence (CHARLI).
CHARLI is said to be the first full-sized
bipedal walking humanoid robot to
be built entirely in the USA.
“Hand of Man” Reaches
The Hand of Man can gesture to
the gods or pick up cars.
Following somewhat of the same
concept is the Hand of Man robot
arm created by artist Christian Ristow.
This one happens to be all hydraulic,
powered by diesel engines, and 25
feet ( 7. 6 m) tall. According to the
creator, it is controlled by sticking
your hand inside a glove. As you
move your fingers, the motions are
duplicated by the machinery. It is
also said to be strong enough to
pick up a small car and fling it back
to the ground.
The device debuted at the 2008
Burning Man, an annual dadaist
event at which thousands of
participants pay up to $300 to
wander around for eight days in
Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, get
heat stroke in the August sun, and
engage in various types of radical
“community, artwork, absurdity,
decommodification, and revelry.”
For more on hydraulic manhandling,
see Ristow’s blog at www.
The Crane of the Future
Robotops, the walking crane.
Courtesy of Tadano Ltd.
Another heavyweight is
Robotops, from Tadano Ltd.
www.tadano.co.jp), one of the
world’s largest manufacturers of
hydraulic cranes, and this one is
aimed to do more than just
entertain. Billed as the industry’s first
four-legged, dual-armed robot, it can
travel by walking or scooting along
on its dual treads. Robotops features
29 joints for added mobility, and
three CCD cameras allow an operator
to control the machine via a remote
monitor and joystick.
The 2.7 ton bot can lift up to
220 lb (100 kg) with each clamp. The
downside is that you can’t have one
— at least not now. According to
Tadano, there are currently no plans
to commercialize the design, but
“we plan to apply and utilize the
technologies of this robot in the
development of our future products.”
Ferreting Out Contraband
It’s still on the drawing board,
but our friends across the pond at
the University of Sheffield (www.
8 SERVO 08.2009