During his internship at Willow Garage, Aaron Blasdel, a recent graduate from The University of Tokyo, developed software to model and analyze robotic grippers.
Due to the broad and varied nature of the robot grasping and manipulation problem, new and interesting grippers are regularly constructed. Aaron constructed models of the Robotiq 3-Fingered Adaptive Gripper and various configurations of the Sandia Hand for the publicly available GraspIt! simulator. In the case of the Robotiq hand, the challenge was to model in simulation its mechanical adaptation capabilities. For the modular Sandia Hand, which uses fingers magnetically attached to a palm structure to form a virtually limitless number of possible designs, Aaron analyzed and compared a number of different configurations. For both hands, he then used the simulation engine to pre-compute grasps for a large set of common household objects.
Simulation and optimization can help us better use existing hand models, and also find new points in the design space which can in turn lead to functional improvements in the future.