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Better by Design: Robotic joint

Sept. 1, 2010
Design engineers tasked with custom robot development must often piece together scores of individual components. Nowhere is this more complicated than

Design engineers tasked with custom robot development must often piece together scores of individual components. Nowhere is this more complicated than for the joints that allow humanoid robots and other robotic handling systems to bend and move.

One new alternative, a customizable robot joint called Robolink, from igus Inc., East Providence, R.I., simplifies development and saves time by combining several components and functions in one device.

The Robolink's bionic core consists of injection-molded plastic joints that are controlled via cable pulls that transfer tensile forces — similar to how tendons function in human muscle actuation. At the same time, cable sheaths hold steady while the inner cables move — similar to how a bicycle's brake cables operate. Cable pulls run through the joints and arms, from one joint to the next, with just four cables necessary to enable each joint to rotate and swivel freely.

Robolink also includes a drive and control unit, various arm sizes, and a duct for additional control cables. The jointed arms are made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and other lightweight materials to save weight and decrease operating power consumption. For design flexibility, drives and controls are compatible with pneumatics, electrics, or hydraulics.

Click here to see Robolink in action.


On display: Robolink robot joint module system

Key features: Joints are controlled by cable tension; data cables convey images, acoustics, and forces; link arms integrate magnetic sensors to measure angular position of joints, and come in several lengths and styles.

What it means to you: An all-in-one modular joint for use in humanoid robots and lightweight material handling applications.

What else: In the ongoing development of the Robolink system, igus foresees tools such as grippers, shovels, hooks, vacuum caps, paddles, and legs being fitted to the end of the joint system.

Innovator: igus Inc.
(800) 521-2747

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