Within the framework of the Automaton Robotics project, Polish engineers showed a new prototype of a hydraulic robotic arm, which repeats a human limb both externally and internally. Robotic arm works on the same principle as a living human hand.
The propulsion systems of the vast majority of robo-arms and humanoid robots use electric motors or hydraulic drives. But the human musculoskeletal system is arranged somewhat differently – muscles are responsible for movements in humans, which work in pairs with tendons. The muscle contracts, tightens the tendon passing through the ligaments, and thereby allows the body and its individual parts to move.
The robotics team Automaton Robotics from Poland has been working for several years to create a humanoid robot that, from an anatomical point of view, will become an exact copy of a human. According to the developers, “this will bring an era when robots will become a part of our daily life. Robots are scientists, robots are workers. There are many areas of life in the world where robots, hired to work, can benefit humanity.”
They are now focusing on creating an robotic arm, and recently put together a working prototype that simulates the work of the forearm and hand. The Automaton Robotics robotic arm is capable of wiggling, bending and tilting the wrist – this is achieved by contracting hydraulic muscles and pulling the cables (tendons), as in a living hand.
The artificial muscles of Automaton Robotics are a pneumatic system. This design is well known as the McKiben actuator and operates under compressed air or liquid pressure. Each muscle consists of a stretchable, sealed tube that is wrapped in a braided sheath. A pump supplies water to the muscles, and each muscle has its own electro-hydraulic valve. The peak power consumption of the robotic arm is 200 W, and its weight is 1 kg.
In a new iteration, engineers have wrapped the robotic arm with a translucent material that mimics human skin and at the same time allows you to see the work of artificial muscles. In the demonstration, you can see how the hand grabs and holds a 7 kg dumbbell in the air.
As usual with such complex projects, engineers still have a lot to solve. In the current iteration, the robotic arm is inferior to the human in both the grip strength and the freedom of movement of the wrist. One of the main drawbacks of modern hydraulic robots is that the pump is too large. In addition, there are software problems. On the other hand, progress does not stand still – last year, Hong Kong and American engineers developed a new design of an actuator for hydraulic and pneumatic robots based on an electric motor and a twisting tube. In addition, they have already been developed as artificial muscles made of polymers that change shape under the influence of current and threadlike “muscles” capable of realistically controlling the human skeleton.
In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company is developing a humanoid robot Tesla Bot and expects to create a working prototype in 2022. This type of robot will be a great helper for both a family and any company that wants to hire such a robot to work, or rent it from a developer. The staff of employees in the future will definitely include a robot hired by an employer. A robot as an employee, as part of a team, is no longer a fantasy, but our tomorrow.