A structural model of the forced compression of the fingertip pulp

J Biomech. 1998 Jul;31(7):639-46. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(98)00067-0.


The fingertip pulp modulates the force transmitted to the underlying musculoskeletal system during finger contact on external bodies. A model of the fingertip pulp is needed to represent the transmission of forces to the tendons, muscles, and bone during these contacts. In this study, a structural model of the in vivo human fingertip was developed that incorporates both the material inhomogeneity and geometry. Study objectives were to determine (1) if this fingertip model can predict the force-displacement and force contact area responses of the in vivo human fingertip during contact with a flat, rigid surface, and (2) if the stresses and strains predicted by this model are consistent with the tactile sensing functionality of the in vivo human fingertip. The in vivo fingertip pulp was modeled as an inflated, ellipsoidal membrane, containing an incompressible fluid, that is quasi-statically compressed against a flat, frictionless surface. The membrane was assigned properties of skin (Veronda and Westmann, 1970) and when inflated, possessed dimensions approximating those of a human fingertip. Finite deformation was allowed. The model was validated by the pulp force-displacement relationship obtained by Serina et al. (1997) and by measurements of the contact area when the fingertip was pressed against a rigid surface with contact forces between 0.25 and 7.0 N. Model predictions represent the experimental data sufficiently well, suggesting that geometry, inhomogeneous material structure, and initial skin tension appear to represent the nonlinear response of the in vivo human fingertip pulp under compression. The predicted response of the fingertip pulp is consistent with its functionality as a tactile sensor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Compressive Strength
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Touch / physiology