Surface strain measurements of fingertip skin under shearing

J R Soc Interface. 2016 Feb;13(115):20150874. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2015.0874.


The temporal evolution of surface strain, resulting from a combination of normal and tangential loading forces on the fingerpad, was calculated from high-resolution images. A customized robotic device loaded the fingertip with varying normal force, tangential direction and tangential speed. We observed strain waves that propagated from the periphery to the centre of the contact area. Consequently, different regions of the contact area were subject to varying degrees of compression, stretch and shear. The spatial distribution of both the strains and the strain energy densities depended on the stimulus direction. Additionally, the strains varied with the normal force level and were substantial, e.g. peak strains of 50% with a normal force of 5 N, i.e. at force levels well within the range of common dexterous manipulation tasks. While these observations were consistent with some theoretical predictions from contact mechanics, we also observed substantial deviations as expected given the complex geometry and mechanics of fingertips. Specifically, from in-depth analyses, we conclude that some of these deviations depend on local fingerprint patterns. Our data provide useful information for models of tactile afferent responses and background for the design of novel haptic interfaces.

Keywords: friction; skin mechanics; tactile perception; touch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fingers*
  • Humans
  • Shear Strength*
  • Skin*
  • Stress, Mechanical*