Hand Arm System

The robotic arm and hand is displayed attached to a metal base.
The arm's actuators and electronics. Photo: Erik Dreyer

The Hand Arm System is designed to have the size, strength, and speed of a human arm. It uses superstrong cables as tendons, and its aluminum endoskeleton makes it look like the Terminator's hand.


German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Germany 🇩🇪
A series of images rotates a human-like robotic hand with five jointed fingers, which close into a fist and reopen.
See a 360° view of the Hand Arm System. Photos: Erik Dreyer

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Average Rating: 3.9 stars (1,339 ratings)

Current Ranking: #138 top rated

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Current Ranking: #153 most wanted



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Did you know?

To assess the robustness of their robot arm, the researchers did what you'd expect from any self-respecting roboticist: They smashed the robot with a baseball bat.

Close-up of the uncovered robotic hand shows the thumb and index finger pinched together.
The hand can perform precise pinching motions. Photo: DLR
Close-up of the robotic hand shows the cable system.
The hand is powered by cables that act as tendons. Photo: DLR
Hand Arm System gets smacked with a baseball bat. Video: DLR

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The Hand Arm System is the culmination of decades of research in robot manipulation by researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, headed by Prof. Alin Albu-Schäffer, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The main motivation for the project is the fact that when robots perform tasks in the real world, they inevitably collide with objects, the environment, and even people. For that reason, the DLR researchers believe that future robots have to be able to handle collisions without suffering or causing damage. The DLR Hand Arm System uses elastic components capable of storing energy and actuators capable of changing their stiffness to achieve the robustness needed against collisions. The Hand Arm System is currently used as a platform for advancing dexterous manipulation and for exploring new applications in robotics.

The uncovered robotic hand grasps a small screwdriver between its fingers.
The hand can grasp a variety of human tools. Photo: DLR
The forearm and robotic hand are seen as the fingers hold a soda bottle.
The fingers conform to the shape of the object. Photo: DLR



Anthropomorphic design. Able to withstand shocks and impacts. Equipped with actuators with variable stiffness and fast dynamic response.





120 cm
13.5 kg (including shoulder)

112 position sensors. Force sensing performed by the actuators.


52 motors (two motors per joint, used for variable stiffness and antagonistic drive)

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)
52 (26 degrees of motion and 26 degrees of freedom for variable stiffness)

Aluminum based endoskeleton. Low friction plastics for finger joint bodies. Hard plastic arm housings.


Intel-based computing nodes and programmable logic devices (FPGA/CPLD). Computing nodes connected by high-speed SpaceWire packet communication network.


QNX real-time OS with hardware abstraction layer and Matlab Simulink interface for control applications.