Grasping and manipulation skills are at the core of the development of modern robotic systems. With the introduction of robotics in new applications involving unstructured environments (e.g. space, undersea, surgery), intelligent manipulation and grasping has become a crucial research area. The authors have developed an internationally recognized expertise in this area. Additionally, they designed and built several prototypes which attracted the attention of the scientific community. Their work was reported in several publications which appeared in the most renowned journals and conferences.
The purpose of this book is to summarize years of research and to present, in an attractive format, the expertise developed by the authors on a new technology for grasping—namely underactuation—which has achieved great success both in theory and in practice. This book is not intended to be used as a textbook but could be used as a reference at the post-graduate level.
Grasping vs. Manipulating
Kinetostatic Analysis of Robotic Fingers
Grasp Stability of Underactuated Fingers
Optimal Design of Underactuated Fingers
Underactuation between the Fingers
Design and Control of the Laval Underactuated Hands
Research on underactuated robotic hands at Université Laval began in 1994 when Clément Gosselin received a grant from the Institut de Recherche en Santé et Sécurité du Travail du Québec (IRSST) to develop robotic grippers/hands with which robots would be capable of replacing human operators in hazardoustasks. Until then, the Robotics Laboratory at Université Laval had been focusing mainly on parallel robotic manipulators and the work on underactuated hands represented a new research thrust for the laboratory. In the early stages of this project, Clément Gosselin and Thierry Laliberté began to build cardboard models of underactuated fingers and soon realized their potential for robotic grasping. Indeed, it was clear that the gap between industrial robotic grippers and advanced fully actuated hands needed to be bridged and that underactuation was a promising avenue to reach this objective. The literature on underactuation provided the necessary inspiration. Among others, the pioneer work of Shimojima (Shimojima, Yamamoto, and Kawakita 1987), Hirose (Hirose and Umetani 1978) and Bartholet (Bartholet 1992) were the main catalysts in the inception of the first Laval designs and developments.
However, although it was soon discovered that the literature on underactuated hands included several clever designs, it was also evident that there was an open avenue for new research initiatives. Several other projects followed the IRSST research programme and a variety of prototypes were built at Laval University since 1996 until now. Most of these prototypes were designed by Thierry Laliberté and some of them are presented in Chapter 7 of this book. Funding for these research projects came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), MacDonald Dettwiller and Associates (MDA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Precarn Incorporated and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). The authors are very grateful to all of these partners for their continued support and trust.
Concurrently with the development of the above mentioned prototypes, more fundamental research on underactuation and its application to robot hands was also performed at Laval. This book stems from Lionel Birglen’s Ph.D. dissertation, which emphasized the theoretical aspects in the research on underactuated fingers. The completion of this thesis work appeared to the authors as an appropriate moment to present the state of the art of the research completed at Laval and to consider it in the context of the international robotics community.
The research on underactuated hands completed in the Robotics Laboratory at Université Laval over the last decade is the result of the work of several individuals. The authors are gratefully acknowledging their valuable contribution to the knowledge and expertise that made this book possible. These individuals include several students and researchers, namely, Sylvain Lemieux, Éric Dégoulange, Serge Montambault, Laura Sie, Mathieu Myrand, Bruno Massa, François Deschênes, Jean-Philippe Jobin, Frédéric Pelletier and Éric Boudreault as well as Jean-Claude Gariépy, the machinist who built most of the prototypes. Several laboratories around the world are currently very active in the area of underactuated hands. New fundamental results are published regularly and new designs are revealed. Several open issues may need significant work before they can be resolved satisfactorily. It is therefore expected that research in the area will continue to grow. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this book is the first one to specifically address the topic of underactuated robotic hands.
As such, it represents a first attempt at crystallizing a body of knowledge that has so far been disseminated through publications and patents. Consequently, this monograph does not claim to present a complete picture of the research on the topic. It is rather intended as a first step in formalizing the most important research issues pertaining to underactuated hands. It is hoped that this book will be useful to many researchers and students and that it will be followed by others.
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