On the development of a cybernetic prosthetic hand

2018-09-06T09:26:33Z (GMT) by Massimiliano Zecca
The human hand is the end organ of the upper limb, which in humans serves the important function of prehension, as well as being an important organ for sensation and communication. It is a marvellous example of how a complex mechanism can be implemented, capable of realizing very complex and useful tasks using a very effective combination of mechanisms, sensing, actuation and control functions. In this thesis, the road towards the realization of a cybernetic hand has been presented. After a detailed analysis of the model, the human hand, a deep review of the state of the art of artificial hands has been carried out. In particular, the performance of prosthetic hands used in clinical practice has been compared with the research prototypes, both for prosthetic and for robotic applications. By following a biomechatronic approach, i.e. by comparing the characteristics of these hands with the natural model, the human hand, the limitations of current artificial devices will be put in evidence, thus outlining the design goals for a new cybernetic device. Three hand prototypes with a high number of degrees of freedom have been realized and tested: the first one uses microactuators embedded inside the structure of the fingers, and the second and third prototypes exploit the concept of microactuation in order to increase the dexterity of the hand while maintaining the simplicity for the control. In particular, a framework for the definition and realization of the closed-loop electromyographic control of these devices has been presented and implemented. The results were quite promising, putting in evidence that, in the future, there could be two different approaches for the realization of artificial devices. On one side there could be the EMG-controlled hands, with compliant fingers but only one active degree of freedom. On the other side, more performing artificial hands could be directly interfaced with the peripheral nervous system, thus establishing a bi-directional communication with the human brain.