Sandia Hand with Flowers

Robots are used to perform more and more complex task and missions, and there is a need for a highly dexterous manipulation capability to support a wide variety of applications including, counter-improvised explosive device (IED), countermine, explosive ordnance disposal, search and rescue, casualty care, and operating in extreme environments.


Current robot hands are highly dexterous and able to perform very complex manipulation tasks, but they are very expensive and thus not widely available. Sandia’s High Consequence, Automation, & Robotics group collaborated with Stanford University and Lunar to develop The Sandia Hand for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-sponsored Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) Program.

System Design

The Sandia Hand consists of a hand frame that supports a set of identical finger modules that magnetically attach to the hand frame. The fingers consist of several sensor systems that enable the hand to perform complex manipulation tasks and are supported by several imaging systems to increase function and performance. The Sandia Hand is controlled through autonomous software, semi-autonomous collaboration with high level human input, and low-level human control via teleoperation.

For system specifications, please download the factsheet (PDF, 995 KB).


The Sandia Hand is modular, so different types of fingers can be attached with magnets and quickly plugged into the hand frame. The operator has the flexibility to quickly and easily attach additional fingers or tools, such as flashlights, screwdrivers or cameras.

  • Low Cost: using 3-D high resolution rapid prototyping technologies for low volumes and ensuring each component is amenable to injection molding for high volumes, and designing around components found in large consumer markets has enabled significant cost reductions
  • Dexterous: designed with four 3 degree of freedom (DOF) fingers to enable dexterous tasks such as finger gating while still maintaining form closure
  • Modular: using a hand frame with identical finger modules that magnetically attach to electrical power and communications through spring contacts, power to each finger socket is actively controlled permitting hot swapping of finger modules


  • Mechanical breakaway: fingers robustly separate from palm in overload conditions
  • Reduced down time: easy to swap out fingers when repairs are needed vs. repairing the entire hand
  • Pluggable tools: swap out fingers with tool modules (screw drivers, forceps, sensors, etc)
  • Customization: limitless variations in palm geometry using the same fingers
        Sandia Hand with cards

        Advanced Manipulation Capabilities

        • Grasping and picking up objects
        • Sorting objects
        • Drilling holes
        • Throwing objects
        • Sliding objects
        • Inserting objects
        • Turning wheels, knobs, levers
        • Holding objects
        • Assembling objects from part kits
        • Removing objects from small spaces


        • Counter-IED
        • Countermine
        • Explosive Ordnance Disposal
        • Search and rescue
        • Casualty care
        • Extreme environment