What is a Microhand?

Malcolm Tatum

Microhands are various configurations of devices that are attached at the end of a robotic arm. The microhand normally has attributes similar to those of the human hand. This means that a microhand is designed to grasp and hold objects with enough efficiency to handle simplistic projects.

A microhand can be attached to the end of a robotic arm.
A microhand can be attached to the end of a robotic arm.

Sometimes referred to as a class of robotic end effector, the main function of the microhand is to perform simple tasks that are necessary but could be performed in an automated environment. This helps to free up human labor for tasks that require more concentration or complicated handling of a substance or object. Many versions of the microhand feature three to five robotic finger units that aid in grasping and holding an object as the robot arm moves the object into position for a given task, such as parts assemblies or pouring a compound into a container.

A microhand follows the same general pattern employed for decades with robotic arms used in mass industry as part of an assembly process. The difference with the microhand is that the device is small, usually in the range of one millimeter. This makes the microhand ideal for use in labwork. There is also some interest in utilizing microhand technology in medical situations that require invasive surgery.

One of the variations of the microhand configuration includes an optical fiber system that functions as the light source for the manipulation of the digits on the microhand. This particular application is one that is attracting a great deal of interest in the medical field. There is the possibility of utilizing what is known as an eye-in-hand system to make a small incision and insert the microhand into the body. Using the visual hookup, the physician could see the interior section of the body and make use of the microhand to perform simple procedures.

The development of microhand technology continues. Currently, the capabilities of the microhand are somewhat limited. However, attempts to improve the dexterity of the robotic unit are underway, and there is potential that extensive use of the microhand in many different professions will be commonplace within the next decade.

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