Optimizing the Topology of Tendon-Driven Fingers: Rationale, Predictions and Implementation

  • Joshua M. Inouye
  • Jason J. Kutch
  • Francisco J. Valero-Cuevas
Part of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics book series (STAR, volume 95)


Tendon-driven mechanisms in general, and tendon-driven fingers in particular, are ubiquitous in nature, and are an important class of bio-inspired mechatronic systems. However, the mechanical complexity of tendon-driven systems has hindered our understanding of biological systems and the optimization of the design, performance, control, and construction of mechatronic systems. Here we apply our recently-developed analytical approach to tendon-driven systems [1] to describe a novel, systematic approach to analyze and optimize the routing of tendons for force-production capabilities of a reconfigurable 3D tendon-driven finger. Our results show that these capabilities could be increased by up to 277 % by rerouting tendons and up to 82 % by changing specific pulley sizes for specific routings. In addition, we validate these large gains in performance experimentally. The experimental results for 6 implemented tendon routings correlated very highly with theoretical predictions with an \( R^{2} \) value of 0.987, and the average effect of unmodeled friction decreased performance an average of 12 %. We not only show that, as expected, functional performance can be highly sensitive to tendon routing and pulley size, but also that informed design of fingers with fewer tendons can exceed the performance of some fingers with more tendons. This now enables the systematic simplification and/or optimization of the design and construction of novel robotic/prosthetic fingers. Lastly, this design and analysis approach can now be used to model complex biological systems such as the human hand to understand the synergistic nature of anatomical structure and neural control.


Biologically-inspired robots Mechanism design 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of Dr. Manish Kurse in providing the data acquisition routine for the experimental procedure, and Dr. Veronica Santos for construction of the gimbal used in the experiments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua M. Inouye
    • 1
  • Jason J. Kutch
    • 2
  • Francisco J. Valero-Cuevas
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Southern CaliforniaCAUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biokinesiology and Physical TherapyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaCAUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical TherapyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaCAUSA

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