This paper deals with the mechatronic design of a novel self-sensing motor-to-joint transmission to be used for the actuation of robotic dexterous manipulators. Backdrivability, mechanical simplicity and efficient flexure joint structures are key concepts that have guided the mechanical design rationale to provide the actuator with force sensing capabilities. Indeed, a self-sensing characteristic is achieved by the specific design of high-resolution cable-driven actuators based on a DC motor, a ball-screw and a monolithic compliant anti-rotation system together with a novel flexure pivot providing a frictionless mechanical structure. That novel compliant pivot with a large angular range and a small center shift has been conceived of to provide the inter-phalangeal rotational degree of freedom of the fingers’ joints to be used for integration in a multi-fingered robotic gripper. Simultaneously, it helps to remove friction at the joint level of the mechanism. Experimental tests carried out on a prototype show an accurate matching between the model and the real behavior. Overall, this mechatronic design contributes to the improvement of the manipulation skills of robotic grippers, thanks to the combination of high performance mechanics, high sensitivity to external forces and compliance control capability.
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