Passive Grasping Device for Glovebox

Photo of Zach Lebovitz, Sam Lema, and Josh Salas Students: Zach Lebovitz, Sam Lema, and Josh Salas

Sponsor: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Date: Fall 2011

As a passive device, the glovebox grasper must be powered solely by human energy. The device should safely lift and manipulate small objects commonly encountered in a glovebox environment such as washers, bolts, lathe chips, glass shards, wires, and other objects that are difficult to lift with gloves alone. To maximize safety, the device should contain few pinch points and sharp edges that can possibly puncture the gloves and jeopardize the safety of the glovebox operator. Finally, the device should be comfortable to use since it will be used frequently for extended periods of time.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory often perform experiments in gloveboxes when working with radioactive plutonium and other hazardous chemicals. While the gloveboxes protect the scientists, the accompanying lead-lined gloves severely limit their dexterity, making it difficult to manipulate small objects. The senior design team has been tasked with designing a passive grasping device to allow glovebox operators to pick up and manipulate small objects from both the glovebox floor and from within metal canisters.

The team created three proof-of-concept models based on concepts generated through brainstorming, mindmapping, and 6-3-5 brainwriting. To evaluate the prototypes, the team conducted empirical and mathematical analyses of each device's performance, ergonomics, safety, required input force, and cost. The recommended design consists of a modified pair of tweezers with a rubber ball handle and modified tips to help the device lift flat objects. The ball handle reduces the required dexterity to actuate the device, improves ergonomics, and provides a greater restoring force than conventional tweezers. For the tips, a "ramp and paddle" design was developed in which a paddle-shaped tip uses friction to move the target object toward a ramp-shaped tip, which scoops underneath the object to secure it. The ramp and paddle tips can rotate to reveal conventional tweezer tips for use with non-flat objects.

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