Date of Award

Fall 10-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Engineering (DEng)


Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science (ENAS)

First Advisor

Dollar, Aaron


The last decade has seen significant advancements in upper limb prosthetics, specifically in the myoelectric control and powered prosthetic hand fields, leading to more active and social lifestyles for the upper limb amputee community. Notwithstanding the improvements in complexity and control of myoelectric prosthetic hands, grasping still remains one of the greatest challenges in robotics. Upper-limb amputees continue to prefer more antiquated body-powered or powered hook terminal devices that are favored for their control simplicity, lightweight and low cost; however, these devices are nominally unsightly and lack in grasp variety. The varying drawbacks of both complex myoelectric and simple body-powered devices have led to low adoption rates for all upper limb prostheses by amputees, which includes 35% pediatric and 23% adult rejection for complex devices and 45% pediatric and 26% adult rejection for body-powered devices [1]. My research focuses on progressing the grasping capabilities of prosthetic hands driven by simple control and a single motor, to combine the dexterous functionality of the more complex hands with the intuitive control of the more simplistic body-powered devices with the goal of helping upper limb amputees return to more active and social lifestyles. Optimization of a prosthetic hand driven by a single actuator requires the optimization of many facets of the hand. This includes optimization of the finger kinematics, underactuated mechanisms, geometry, materials and performance when completing activities of daily living. In my dissertation, I will present chapters dedicated to improving these subsystems of single actuator prosthetic hands to better replicate human hand function from simple control. First, I will present a framework created to optimize precision grasping – which is nominally unstable in underactuated configurations – from a single actuator. I will then present several novel mechanisms that allow a single actuator to map to higher degree of freedom motion and multiple commonly used grasp types. I will then discuss how fingerpad geometry and materials can better grasp acquisition and frictional properties within the hand while also providing a method of fabricating lightweight custom prostheses. Last, I will analyze the results of several human subject testing studies to evaluate the optimized hands performance on activities of daily living and compared to other commercially available prosthesis.