When grasping and manipulating objects, the central controller utilizes the mechanical advantage of the normal forces of the fingers for torque production. Whether the same is valid for tangential forces is unknown. The main purpose of this study was to determine the patterns of finger tangential forces and the use of mechanical advantage as a control mechanism when dealing with objects of nonuniform finger positioning. A complementary goal was to explore the interaction of mechanical advantage (moment arm) and the role a finger has as a torque agonist/antagonist with respect to external torques (±0.4 N m). Five 6-df force/torque transducers measured finger forces while subjects held a prism handle (6 cm width × 9 cm height) with and without a single finger displaced 2 cm (handle width). The effect of increasing the tangential moment arm was significant (p < .01) for increasing tangential forces (in >70% of trials) and hence creating greater moments. Thus, the data provides evidence that the grasping system as a rule utilizes mechanical advantage for generating tangential forces. The increase in tangential force was independent of whether the finger was acting as a torque agonist or antagonist, revealing their effects to be additive.
Gregory P. Slota (Corresponding Author), Mark L. Latash, and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky are with the Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.