The robot revolution is upon us. There should be no misconception about this. Robot development has expanded to an audience of tinkerers, college degree programs, industrial developers and major suppliers of hardware. The robot industry in North America is estimated to be a $1.3 billion market and growing rapidly.
The concept of the robot has been with us for almost 100 years. It has always been man’s fantasy to be perform work without effort. Let’s face it, if you could have a robot that does all the heavy lifting, doesn’t get tired or cranky, doesn’t make mistakes, it would be a great thing.
Many of the applications that robots are being developed for are cases where a human being would be at serious risk. Bomb disposal, repairing leaky nuclear reactors, even military combat are all areas of development for robotics. The challenges have consistently been the cost and sophistication of the machine that can replace a human in any of these situations. Those costs have been declining rapidly with the digital revolution. The real challenge, as with all great mechatronic challenges, is to come up with ever more sophisticated mechanical solutions that make the end product cost effective to produce.
In the field of pharmaceuticals technicians working in the lab can be exposed to dangerous chemicals and biological agents. The level of dexterity in performing tasks like culturing bacteria, or pipetting and testing chemical reactions require that human lab technicians train for many years to become proficient.
Recent engineering efforts creating higher dexterity robots have lead to the development of Mahoro. Check out the YouTube video;
The dual arm architecture is not new, Baxter, NASA, GM and others have all demonstrated similar systems based on existing mechanics. The unique feature in this robot is the 7th axis on each arm. This added degree of freedom permits operation of the robot with articulation comparable to human dexterity. It has been successful in performing all the tasks needed in the pharmaceutical arena with twice the throughput, higher accuracy and no risk of human exposure to biological hazards.
The increased sophistication of the robot is the direct result of rethinking the mechanical structure. If you look at the many robotic attempts to mimic the human hand, some up to 30 axes of actuation, the attributes of the mechanical solution predict the applicability of the solution. The Schunk Dextrous Hand is a unique solution that offers the lowest number of axes of control and greatest flexibility to deal with objects in the work area.
The future of robotics will be based on unique mechanical solutions that lead to lower cost, higher performing systems. There is plenty of room for new things.