Tactile Sensing for Mechatronics: A State of the Art Survey

Mark Lee, Howard Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

619 Citations (SciVal)


In this paper we examine the state of the art in tactile sensing for mechatronics. We define a tactile sensor as a device or system that can measure a given property of an object or contact event through physical contact between the sensor and the object. We consider any property that can be measured through contact, including the shape of an object, texture, temperature, hardness, moisture content, etc.

A comprehensive search of the literature revealed that there was a significant increase in publications on tactile sensing from 1991 onwards. Considerable effort in the 1980s was spent investigating transduction techniques and developing new sensors, whilst emphasis in more recent research has focused on experiments using tactile sensors to perform a variety of tasks.

This paper reports on progress in tactile sensing in the following areas: cutaneous sensors, sensing fingers, soft materials, industrial robot grippers, multifingered hands, probes and whiskers, analysis of sensing devices, haptic perception, processing sensory data and new application areas.

We conclude that the predominant choice of transduction method is piezoelectric, with arrays using resistive or capacitive sensing. We found that increased emphasis on understanding tactile sensing and perception issues has opened up potential for new application areas. The predicted growth in applications in industrial automation has not eventuated. New applications for tactile sensing including surgery, rehabilitation and service robotics, and food processing automation show considerable potential and are now receiving significant levels of research attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


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