The goal of this thesis project was to determine the lower limit of scale for the RIT robotic grasping hand. This was accomplished using a combination of computer simulation and experimental studies. A force analysis was conducted to determine the size of air muscles required to achieve appropriate contact forces at a smaller scale. Input variables, such as the actuation force and tendon return force, were determined experimentally. A dynamic computer model of the hand system was then created using Recurdyn. This was used to predict the contact (grasping) force of the fingers at full-scale, half-scale, and quarter-scale. Correlation between the computer model and physical testing was achieved for both a life-size and half-scale finger assembly. To further demonstrate the scalability of the hand design, both half and quarter-scale robotic hand rapid prototype assemblies were built using 3D printing techniques. This thesis work identified the point where further miniaturization would require a change in the manufacturing process to micro-fabrication. Several techniques were compared as potential methods for making a production intent quarter-scale robotic hand. Investment casting, Swiss machining, and Selective Laser Sintering were the manufacturing techniques considered. A quarter-scale robotic hand tested the limits of each technology. Below this scale, micro-machining would be required. The break point for the current actuation method, air muscles, was also explored. Below the quarter-scale, an alternative actuation method would also be required. Electroactive Polymers were discussed as an option for the micro-scale. In summary, a dynamic model of the RIT robotic grasping hand was created and validated as scalable at full and half-scales. The model was then used to predict finger contact forces at the quarter-scale. The quarter-scale was identified as the break point in terms of the current RIT robotic grasping hand based on both manufacturing and actuation. A novel, prototype quarter-scale robotic hand assembly was successfully built by an additive manufacturing process, a high resolution 3D printer. However, further miniaturization would require alternate manufacturing techniques and actuation mechanisms.

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