The design of underactuated mechanical hands is addressed in this article. The objective of the research is to design a robust mechanical hand capable of performing industrial tasks involving the grasping of a wide variety of objects with large forces. To this end, the taxonomy of the grasps is first reviewed. Then, the principle of underactuation - which leads to shape adaptation of the hands - is introduced and a review of the existing underactuated mechanical hands is provided. Architectures of two-degree-of-freedom underactuated fingers are then proposed and a simulation tool is designed to analyze their behavior. It is shown that underactuation is a very promising avenue when only grasping is required (no manipulation). Simulation results are given and discussed in order to illustrate the usefulness of the simulator and general design guidelines are proposed. Finally, an underactuated finger is selected and this finger is used in the design of a three fingered hand. Grasps - chosen from the taxonomy - which can be performed with this hand are then illustrated. The design presented here demonstrates that the use of underactuation can lead to versatile grasping capabilities with reduced complexity. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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