Robotic hand for the cleaning of nuclear sites

    In 2005-2006, the Robotics Laboratory has been working on the development of a robotic hand for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). The main business of UKAEA is the clean-up of nuclear sites. One of their tasks is to retreive radio-active waste from old storing sites in order to package and store it in safer conditions. The retrieval of the waste is a timely and complex task. The waste is composed of cans and a variety of debris. Presently, several grippers are used, each one being adapted to a specific type of object. Unfortunately, the changeout of the grippers is time consuming. The use of a more flexible gripper that will replace several specialized grippers will facilitate and accelerate the retrieval process.

    Fig. 1: Prototype and CAD model of the waste retrieval hand.

    This flexible gripper is adapted from the SARAH hand, which was developed by the Robotics Laboratory and originally designed for use in space. The SARAH hand includes three underactuated and orientable fingers, driven by only two motors. In order to satisfy the requirements of the waste retieval tasks, several components were redesigned. Among others, the new gripper has a significantly larger payload and is adapted to a nuclear environment. Also, the tip of the fingers is designed to grasp cans located in confined spaces, and are yet still capable of handling a variety objects. The gripper (shown above) is currently in use.