One place where I thought I could eliminate some friction was at the joint between the fintertip and the proximal. I've watched the fingertip bend closely, and noticed that it rubs at that joint so much that it doesn't slide around it. The elastic catches on the proximal joint when the fingertip bends around it. The joint at the palm doesn't catch the elastic as much, so that joint gets to stretch almost all of the elastic. When the fingertip closes, it has to stretch the little bit of elastic between the tie-off on the fingertip and the joint at the proximal. Obviously, stretching such a small amount of elastic is a problem.
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There is a little friction at the palm joint. However, most of the elastic slips past that joint, allowing it to stretch the whole line.
I came up with an idea to reduce the friction at the proximal/fingertip joint. I changed the proximal a little, removing a bit of the plastic at the end. This is the plastic that separates the elastic from the snap pin. Without that plastic there, the elastic touches the snap pin when the fingertip rotates.
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Since the snap pin rotates with the fingertip, this causes the elastic to be pulled around the pin with the fingertip. So instead of pulling on just that small length of elastic from the fingertip to the proximal, it's pulling the entire length of the elastic.
I made two proximals like this and wired them up to my hand. They did, in fact, rotate better than the other two fingers. In fact, they rotated so well that the fingertips tended to fully close before the rest of the fingers. This is not very good for picking things up.
I think there's still a little friction as the palm joint. If I could reduce that and make the joints close equally, this might be a decent change. As it is, it works a little too well and the fingers close in an inconvenient fashion. I may revisit this later, but right now it doesn't seem helpful.
This led me to realize that the problem is really the elastics themselves. My original test hand used rubber bands instead of elastics. I didn't have elastic bands yet. That hand closed super easy, while still snapping the fingers back up. I rewired that hand with elastics, and sure enough, it was just as hard to close the fingers as my current test hand.
A little testing determined that rubber bands are able to stretch to 500% of their original length. The elastics that I'm using stretch to 200% of their original length. The hand won't close easily because the elastics just won't stretch far enough.
This explains why my 175% hand closes so much more easily than the 100% hand. I don't mean relatively easier, it takes less absolute force to close the fingers on the big hand than the little one. It's all because the elastic has room to stretch on the big hand.
Side note: I'm not suggesting that we all start using rubber bands. Wouldn't they deteriorate faster? I think? The elastic on a small hand is regularly being pulled to close to it's full capacity, while the rubber bands never come close to fully stretched. I want to say that the rubber bands I got at the grocery store won't hold up as long as the nice elastic cord I bought, but I'm not completely sure.
At any rate, I feel confident in saying that my experiment in changing the shape of the proximal wasn't bad, just unnecessary. The proximals are 1% of the problem when the elastics are really 99% of the problem. Some people have done good research on hands that don't use elastics. These experiments make me think they're on the right track.