The S-Finger: A Synergetic Externally Powered Digit With Tactile Sensing and Feedback

June 29, 2018

I. ImbintoF. MontagnaniM. BaccheretiC. CiprianiA. DavalliR. SacchettiE. GruppioniS. CastellanoM. Controzzi

Partial hand amputation is by far the most common type of amputation worldwide. Nevertheless, regardless of their potential clinical and socioeconomic impact, battery-powered partial hand prostheses, namely, powered digits, have modestly progressed so far, and very few clinical solutions are available today. Here, we present a mechanical architecture, an alternative to state-of-the-art solutions, which exploits a high efficiency, non-back drivable mechanical transmission based on a face-gear pair and a miniaturized clutch. We took inspiration from the synergetic prehension approach proposed by Childress for whole hand amputation. The finger was equipped with a myoelectric controller and a tactile sensor able to provide users with discrete event sensory feedback. Measured speed (90°/s) and force (6.5 N) of the newly dubbed S-Finger proved comparable with those of clinically available prostheses. The design demonstrated to be compact and rugged enough to undergo a clinical viability test with two partial hand amputees, fitted with custom three-fingered research prostheses using the S-Finger. The subjects successfully completed several dexterity tests and gave relevant feedback for the development of a second-generation device. These results contribute to the increasing research endeavors in the field of partial hand amputation.

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