For many, many years nature has inspired engineers in evolving and enhancing technology to create powerful and proficient robots. Here are some examples of current creative developments.
Birds, Dogs, Snakes and Elephants are just some of the animals inspiring mechatronic engineers to design state of the art robots. Here maxon takes a closer look.
The bionic bird A French company has developed a bionic bird toy that can be controlled with a smartphone. A lightweight 9 grams, the bird can achieve speeds of up to 20 km/h and has a range covering more than 100 metres. The bird presents an alternative to propeller drones.
ANYmal Engineers at ETH Zurich developed a four-legged robot that was made for very harsh conditions and can move autonomously. Since its inception in 2009, ANYmal has evolved into machine that can conquer inclines, run, jump and press elevator buttons. Using laser sensors and cameras, the robot continuously creates a map of its terrain, knows where it is and navigates through the changing landscape. Weighing around 30 kg it can carry a payload up to 10kg and run for 2 hours on a fully charged battery. The future use for the ANYmal is expected for inspections, rescue operations or the entertainment industry.
The underwater snake
A modular underwater robot snake has been developed for use in inspections, maintenance and repair work reaching distances and places that conventional underwater robots are unable to reach. The robot is flexible and has moving connecting parts with the option of mounting tools. Inside the connecting modules are maxon brushless DC motors with customised gearheads. The underwater robot has been in constant development for 10 years with the current model reliant on a cable. Future versions include keeping the robot on the bottom of the ocean indefinitely at a docking station from where it can launch into action when needed.
This robot was named so because it moves like a snake. With a diameter of 6cm it can fit into narrow spaces making it suitable for inspection in unstable environments such as after earthquakes. With independent modules the SnakeBot can also climb up plant legs and posts. There are approx.. 20 maxon EC20 flat brushless motors in the snake, selected for both their high torque and ability to withstand short periods of overload.
This robot is modelled on an octopus’s tentacles and elephant’s trunk. With skin made of innovative fibre technology this robot offers flexible movement that can bend in three different directions at the same time. The robot is pneumatic and lightweight with 12 degrees of freedom and can carry up to three kilos of payload.
For further information on any of these examples please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Developing Exoskeletons for children present their own engineering challenges simply because children are still growing.
Exoskeletons were largely developed for people that have sustained paralysis or suffer muscular dystrophy. For adults who have stopped growing there is no risk of outgrowing the exoskeleton. However for children their growth and ability present a multitude of challenges for design engineers. An exoskeleton that fits a six-year old perfectly may be much too small by the time the child turns seven. For a child with spinal muscular atrophy an exoskeleton is designed to recognise users are not completely paralysed but are able to move their legs to a certain extent. Sensors within the frame detect weak leg movements and respond immediately to provide support. As a result, the child is able control the exoskeleton directly with the legs.
Spanish company, Marsi Bionics, manufactures exoskeletons mainly for adults but have developed two exoskeletons for children, the Atlas 2020 and Atlas 2030. Weighing approximately 14 kgs it is made for children from 3 years up who have a neuromuscular disease. The exoskeleton can be adapted to various leg lengths and hip widths, so that it also fits teenagers up to about 14 years of age. The “Atlas 2030 is an upgrade of Atlas 2020”, explains Elena García, creator and co-founder of Marsi Bionics. “The main difference is that Atlas 2020 is intended for use in hospitals for gait training and rehabilitation, while Atlas 2030 is designed for use in private homes as an integral part of the patient’s everyday life. Both devices are ready for industrial production and until then, Atlas 2020 will continue to be used in hospitals for clinical research.”
maxon motor have five drive systems in each leg of the children’s exoskeleton. Brushless flat EC45 motors deliver very high torque in a compact design, coupled with inductive MILE encoders that act as sensors. The motors are controlled by servo controllers from maxon’s ESCON series. “EC flat motors provide the best power-to-weight and power-to-volume ratio”, explained Elena García. “This is a variable of paramount importance, as gait exoskeletons require high power but a very low weight and volume.” The exoskeletons will be made available commercially once CE certification marks have been received.
For more information contact maxon motor Australia Tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Biology and engineering have been combined to create the world’s first prosthetic foot with propulsion powered from a maxon DC motor.
Our calf muscles provide the essential power, control and stability for walking. Those who’ve had below the knee amputation tire very quickly walking on a prosthetic foot. Step in Hugh Herr, Professor at MIT Boston who developed The Empower bionic prosthetic foot along with the Ottobock Group, a world-leading supplier of prostheses. Hugh himself is a double transtibial amputee resulting from a mountaineering accident. Hugh and his team drew inspiration from nature to create The Empower combining both biology and engineering together.
The Empower is a third generation newly developed bionic foot. A research team spent 16 months to make walking feel more natural by using a carbon spring which transfers energy directly to the foot. A powerful maxon DC motor refines the energy pulse delivered by the spring and provides the missing power of a calf muscle, step by step with each toe push-off. Several sensors “tell” the prostheses which phase of movement the foot is in, at any given time, so that it can perform the corresponding action. This allows for short sprints, which were previously deemed impossible, as well as walking on uneven ground and up inclines. What’s more, the greater the load on the prostheses, the greater its energy output becomes, just like a natural foot. The DC motor providing the propulsion is maxon’s EC-4pole 30. Selected for its powerhouse features and high output per unit of volume and weight it provides an ideal ratio between size, weight and power – a key factor in developing prosthetics.
For more information on prostheses and robot assisted rehabilitation please contact maxon motor Australia tel.+ 61 2 9457 7477.
Prosthetics are a significant engineering challenge because of their conflicting DC motor design goals: high torque, high speed, compact size and the DC motors need to be as energy efficient as possible.
German company Vincent Systems have created a bionic hand prosthesis that is the first commercially available prosthetic delivering haptic feedback about grip strength to its wearer. This is achieved with short pulses of vibration. If the hand were to vibrate evenly, a person becomes familiar to the sensation and eventually stops paying attention to it.
What sets this prostheses apart is that each finger can individually open up. This opens up numerous situations for the wearer such as being able to ride a bike, tie shoelaces, hold a raw egg or open a door. 12 grip patterns are available that can be activated via muscle contractions. Weighing about the same as a human hand it’s available in a version small enough for children, with the youngest wearer being eight years old.
Each individual finger is actively driven by a DC motor, and the thumb is driven by two DC motors. Maxon have up to six brushed DC motors in the hand: DCX 10 DC motors with modified GP 10A planetary gearheads. The drive systems were selected for their compact size and highest energy density currently available from maxon. Plus the drives needed to be durable and function faultlessly for approximately five years while being exposed to diverse and heavy strain every day.
It was important to CEO and founder of Vincent Systems, Stefan Schulz, that patients wouldn’t need their healthy hand to help. “A prosthetic hand should help its wearer and not demand the attention of the good hand.”
For further information please contact maxon motor Australia Tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Brushless flat DC motor with hollow bore for air and light transmission.
Today we exhibit a new motor development featuring a Brushless DC (BLDC) flat motor. Flat motors are also commonly referred to as pancake motors. This unit has a body length of just 38mm and an output power of over 157W and 6000rpm at the shaft in the application. The average motor power rating for the series across 6 variants is 100W. The overall motor diameter is 68mm and it can be supplied with or without protective covers for IP rating. The motor is available with an internal encoder with resolutions up to 16,384qc per revolution making it suitable as a rotary stage of robotic joint actuator. The unique feature though is the motors hollow shaft. This is to enable customers to pass light or air through the bore of the motor. Air transmission is a common requirement for packaging and placement machinery and light or fibre is a common requirement for film and camera gimbal applications. This motor was also manufactured with the customers shaft length and bore specifications in combination with a custom rear shaft extension at the rear from the motor rotor.
Contact maxon motor Australia for motor specifications or assistance with a custom solution Tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
maxon motor have released the 2018/19 catalogue. Entitled “High precision drives and systems” the new catalogue theme is based on maxon motors focus on building complete drive systems including DC motors, gearheads, sensors and controllers.
maxon motor will continue to be the world’s leading supplier of high precision brushed and brushless DC motors and gearheads but also have expanded into cross-platform system solutions from a single source. In addition to the new capabilities expansion maxon have released a large range of new products. These include: A new square format 16mm brushless DC motor, 13mm and 16mm ECX high speed brushless motors, the new ECi-30 low cost high torque BLDC motor, an entire range of frameless brushless motors that are particularly suitable for wheel hub applications and robotic joint actuation, new encoders and various new motor control units. The first torque levels from a direct drive maxon motor at 1Nm have been achieved with the new 260W flat motor that is less than 40mm long and a series of motors with a hollow bore are handy for applications that require a passage for cables, air or light. Print versions and online e-paper versions have been released.
For customised solutions contact maxon motor Australia Ph: +61 2 9457 7477.
maxon motor Australia’s new frameless DC motor and encoder set allows even further miniaturisation and integration. The new motors meet the increasing need for smaller robotic actuation by assembling individual parts directly into the robotic joint.
This is the new frameless brushless DC motor (BLDC) with a diameter of 45mm and an assembled depth of just 23.7mm, it has a continuous rating of 50W. 70W and 130W versions are also available. The frameless design is particularly suitable for processing machine or rotary stage manufacturers who need a large through bore to pass cabling or tubing. For positioning a high resolution magnetic encoder ring also with the same bore as the motor rotor is also supplied as components. The encoder ring is marked with the zero position to allow alignment with the motor zero commutation point in the application and is available in IP rated, absolute and incremental options. The combination gives a low profile large bore positioning system made up from standard parts with shorter lead times than specialty manufactured complete assemblies. The second advantage is for space saving in applications already containing joint actuation bearings or mounting systems there is no need for a second set within the motor.
Contact maxon motor Australia for assistance with brushless frameless DC motors. Ph: +61 2 9457 7477.
This brushless DC motor is an example of the new small part combinations from maxon motor Australia that provide increased levels of power density. The unique assembly provides a blend of high speed, zero motor cogging and holding power.
The servo mechanism consists of a stainless steel high power BLDC (brushless DC) 120W 36V 22mm motor which is capable of maximum speeds up to 25,000 rpm and a stall torque rating of over 1Nm. It is fitted with a 22mm ceramic planetary gearhead that further increases the torque and brings the speed down to the application engineers required levels. For holding overhung loads or maintaining position in power cycles the rear of the motor has been re-engineered to accommodate a 0.1Nm holding brake. The brake force multiplied with the gearhead ratio gives holding forces well beyond nominal gearhead ratings. The brake opening reaction time is ≤6ms. This fast response allows the brake to be sequenced in dynamic positioning systems making the new combination particularly suitable for robotic rotary and linear actuators.
To facilitate the customisation of new products like this brushless servomechanism, maxon motor project engineers are now split into dedicated aerospace, medical, industrial and transportation teams. For assistance developing a customised application solution please contact maxon motor Australia on +61 2 9457 7477.
Created by Year 12 students from Brisbane are soccer-playing machines that achieved first place at famed international competition, RoboCup.
Brisbane Boy’s College (BBC) has a dedicated robotics program with teams participating in regional, state, national, Asia-Pacific and international Robotic competitions. In 2017, five participants from BBC formed a team and visited Nagoya, Japan for the annual RoboCup competition. And they beat the best of the best with their soccer-playing robot.
Weighing just over 1 kg, the robots had to be remotely operated meaning everything had to be programmed and no human touch was allowed. To win the world superteam champions lightweight category for under-19s, the boys’ robots acted as either goalie or striker against, and with, machines from other countries. The Chinese team had the fastest robots and received the highest score for gameplay but Australia won on accuracy and coding. Maxon DCX motors and gearheads are in the wheels of the robot. Maxon motor Australia is a proud supporter of BBC.
Team captain and ex-soccer player, Lachlan Grant, said the programming and circuit board building was extremely complex, and it was nice to see their win make news for the school, traditionally renowned for rugby and tennis. Master in Charge Colin Noy said the boys’ skills were so good the school gets former students, now at university, to coach instead of teachers. “In fact, one European university lecturer attending the championships told us the programming level of our students was higher than most of his Masters students,” Mr Noy said.
“Our robots were to the most responsive and most accurate in the competition.”
To watch the BBC robots at play click on this YouTube link. For more information on DC motors in robotic applications contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
At the international RoboCup, maxon motors featured in robots playing soccer and in mock recovery operations.
At the end of July 2017, more than 3,000 participants from 42 countries participated in the annual RoboCup competition held in Nagoya, Japan.
maxon had inbuilt motors and controllers in a rescue robot developed by the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences that placed seventh out of 20 competitors. Scoring high marks for the light design and system approach, the robot contained several DC motor, gearbox and encoder combinations. Using the EC-4 pole brushless motor with 200W power as a base, the motor operated the chains propelling the robot forward. The camera arm of the robot also contained eight maxon DEC 50/5 modules on circuit boards and four 70/10 ESCON controllers for the gripper arm. The machines acted in a simulated disaster scenario carrying out rescue operations and were evaluated based on their performance.
At the other end of the contest was the Soccer finale, with the two competing robots both containing maxon drives. The University of Bonn developed an 18kg, 135 cm robot supported by an exoskeleton that was 3D printed called “NimbRo”. Maxon DC motors were integrated into an actuator drive system developed by a South Korean company. The competitor’s robot, named “Sweaty” and developed by Offenburg University, contained 24 maxon DC motors and gearheads. 18 of these drives were fitted with an overload motor controller and a further two were fitted with an evaporative cooling system to prevent overheating. This cooling system is similar to the way humans sweat hence the name “Sweaty”. NimbRo won 11-1.
For more information on DC motors to develop robotic applications contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.