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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(07):24-29. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUL-1.
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This paper illustrates various aspects of technological advancements in designs and functioning of prosthetic hands. Schunk, a top supplier of robotic grippers, believes humanoid hands will make robots more flexible and eliminate tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of auxiliary equipment. Shadow Robot's hand can grip an egg or a pair of pliers. The company is building hands that mimic human motion for service robots, which will act like valets to perform a variety of tasks for their masters. With a hand, a robot could determine if it could get to a part and then configure its hand to get to the location and grasp the part. Touch Bionics’s i-LIMB hand combines an independently powered thumb and index finger with three fingers that move in unison. Muscle contractions in the forearm control its movement. It can peel a banana, lifting a credit card off a table, or holding a briefcase. It is expected that surgeons in hospitals may use robotic humanoid hands to perform delicate operations in remote locations.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(07):30-34. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUL-2.
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This paper discusses role of reverse engineering in biomedical and other bioscience applications. Reverse engineering is one of the most relevant examples of methods that have moved from engineering to find a role in biomedical and other bioscience applications. For an early introduction to the method's use in both biomedical and engineering fields, reverse engineering is commonly taught to biomedical undergraduates. Scientists in the biomedical hybrid fields of systems and synthetic biology call upon reverse engineering in ways that may look foreign to the practicing mechanical or electrical engineer—or even to the practicing biomedical engineer. The paper also highlights that synthetic biology, a new area of research, focuses solely on designing and building new biological systems. Synthetic biology often focuses on ways of taking parts of natural biological systems, characterizing and simplifying them, and using them as components of an engineered, biological system. According to critics, biological circuits can be integrated into organisms to change their interactions or products or, ultimately, to synthesize fundamentally new and possibly hazardous organisms. The new field of study—like all other fields encompassed by biomedical engineering—has seen fit to use reverse engineering as an everyday tool.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(07):36-39. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUL-3.
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Remotely operated vehicles (ROV) capable of operating at greater depths are under development by research institutions and commercial manufacturers. ROVs are essential to the development of offshore oil and gas reserves below ocean waters 3000 to 4000 meters deep. ROVs come in many shapes and sizes. Heavy-duty models can weigh several tons and have 250-horsepower motors. The largest are used to dig trenches for laying underwater pipelines. ROVs of 15 kilograms or less can examine the interior of pipelines and other small cavities or carry out tedious operations, such as checking ship hulls for terrorist devices. Larger ROVs are used at depths down to 1000 meters. DOER Marine in Alameda, California is working with Northern Illinois University to develop an ROV capable of being lowered through a borehole drilled though an ice sheet to enter the underlying ocean. ROV manufacturers are working toward super-reliability, so that vehicles can be put on the sea floor to operate for six to eight months at a time and be based at subsea facilities.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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