No longer afraid of the dentist

Teaching robot with piezo technology

No one enjoys going to the dentist, young children even less so. To help future dentists and dental assistants deal with children during dental treatments, Japanese company tmsuk has developed a humanoid robot that realistically simulates the behaviour of young children during these treatments, including fidgeting, flinching or closing the mouth. The dummy's realistic movements are generated using proportional pressure regulators with piezo technology.

This may come as a surprise, but during many dental treatments, young children can suffer from a drop in blood pressure, shock or unconsciousness, which can lead to very critical physical conditions. That is why it is all the more important that the training of dentists and dental assistants prepares them for the restlessness and fear of young children during dental treatment. Using a simulation robot is therefore extremely practical, since it is not possible to use living people for teaching dentistry and oral surgery.

Pneumatic robot

Japanese company tmsuk has already launched a number of service robots on the market, such as transport robots and robots for the care of elderly people. Like many classic robots, all of them are equipped with electric axes. Now the company is continuing its push forward into the field of medical simulation with teaching robots. The robot used to simulate young children undergoing dental treatment, called Pedia_Roid, is 110 cm tall and weighs 23 kg, which is equivalent to a five-year-old.

The Pedia_Roid is pneumatic, since the students and trainees sometimes have to hold the robotic dummy’s limbs during treatment simulations. This could damage the gearbox and spindles of the electric drives. In this case, pneumatics is more robust and flexible than electric drive technology.

Smooth movements with piezo technology

Smooth movements with piezo technology The smooth, lifelike movements are only possible with piezo technology. It is the basis for the proportional pressure regulators VEAA and VEAB from Festo used in the robot. They control most of the robot's 24 pneumatic cylinders that create the thousands of deceptively real movements of the arms, legs and fingers, as well as the mouth, eyelids and irises. Silent and with low energy consumption, the proportional pressure regulators enable the simulation of human-like behaviour. Unlike classic pneumatic solenoid valves, they do not make any clicking sounds when they switch, since the bender actuator moves freely and without impact noises.

"We would not have been able to realise this humanoid robot without the piezo technology used by Festo in the proportional pressure regulators," explains Yusuke Ishii, Director of tmsuk. The proportional pressure regulators VEAA/VEAB are 3/3-way valves with a pressure sensor and control electronics. Compared to solenoid valves, proportional valves with piezo technology require virtually no energy to maintain an active state thanks to their capacitive principle. The piezo valve operates like a capacitor: it only needs energy at the start in order to charge the piezo ceramics. No further energy is needed to maintain its state. As a result, the valves do not heat up either. Piezo valves consume up to 95% less energy than solenoid valves, which permanently require an electrical current.

Long service life, small footprint

The design of the proportional pressure regulators VEAA/VEAB makes them resistant to wear and capable of achieving a high number of cycles. The VEAA and VEAB offer huge benefits for pressure regulation applications with low to very low air consumption involving cylinders, as well as for applications requiring a high dynamic response, such as the Pedia_Roid robots. The compact design of these proportional valves combines space-saving installation with a low dead weight.

The world's first 50 robots for teaching dentistry are in the production planning phase, after which they will be sent out to be used in universities and colleges in Japan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Other regions will follow.

About tmsuk:

The Japanese tmsuk company limited has tasked itself with developing service robots to assist people in the medical environment as well as in disaster zones. Based on the island of Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands, the company was established in 2000 and has a workforce of 24 as well as a subsidiary in Taiwan.

November 2020