Flexible movement and precise gripping: at first glance, the Bionic Handling Assistant appears to be a readily yielding gripping arm whose structure and overall operation are modelled on the elephant’s trunk. Over and above its pure utility value, however, the system serves as a development platform that combines a wide diversity of technologies and components.
A freely movable handling system
The Bionic Handling Assistant comprises three basic elements for spatial movement, along with a hand axis and a gripper with adaptive fingers.
Its eleven degrees of freedom allow a wide variety of task-specific travel paths, which unlike conventional handling systems are not purely linear.
The three basic elements each comprise three actuators, which are supplied with compressed air at the interfaces of the elements. Resetting is effected by the loop-like design of the actuators, which act like a spring when the compressed air is discharged.
Hazard-free cooperation between humans and technology
The use of polyamide makes the bellows structure of the system inherently flexible; it is stiffened in a specific manner by the pneumatic control unit. The flexible structure renders direct human-machine contact hazard-free – whether this be intentional or unintentional. In the event of a collision with the human operator, the system immediately yields with no change to the desired overall dynamic behaviour.
Winner of the German Future Prize
As a result of its yielding characteristics and the resulting risk-free human-machine contact, the Bionic Handling Assistant was chosen to receive the German Future Award.