A review of fingerpad contact mechanics and friction and how this affects tactile perception

Julien van Kuilenburg*, Marc A. Masen, Emile van der Heide

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


In the sliding contact between the fingerpad and a rough surface when touching a product’s surface, friction plays a role in the perception of roughness, slipperiness and warmth. For product engineers who aim to control and optimize the sensorial properties of a product surface interacting with the skin, it is essential to understand this frictional behaviour. However, the friction of skin is yet poorly understood. The variation that is observed within or between skin friction studies can be assigned to gender, age and orientation of the finger. Analysing data collected from literature shows some consistent trends. The coefficient of friction increases considerably with increasing hydration level of the skin, due to softening of the top layer of the skin. The coefficient of friction of the fingerpad decreases with normal load to a constant value, which can be attributed to effects of normal adhesion and the deformation behaviour of the fingerpad. There is no consistent effect of velocity on the coefficient of friction. Friction decreases with increasing Ra roughness. When the Ra roughness increases further, the contribution of deformation causes an increase in the friction after which it remains constant. Some influence of the finishing method is reported. The type of material has a smaller influence than the surface roughness of the sample or the condition of the skin. Even though the coefficient of friction of the fingerpad shows some consistent trends, examining the friction behaviour at a more detailed level might explain the contribution of friction to tactile perception. The measuring signal contains relevant information and should be analysed thoroughly as opposed to taking the average coefficient of friction of the steady state part of the signal. Future work should involve the study of local friction behaviour at the scale of the surface roughness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-258
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Part J: Journal of engineering tribology
Issue number3
Early online date4 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • Skin
  • fingerpad
  • tactile perception
  • friction
  • tribology
  • 2023 OA procedure


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