Sensitive helper for human–robot collaboration

The BionicCobot mimics the human arm in more than its anatomical structure. Like its biological role model, the pneumatic lightweight robot moves flexibly and precisely to perform its many tasks. This pliability means that it can work directly and safely with humans.

Pneumatic lightweight robot with human motion dynamics

Whether it is gripping powerfully or lifting carefully, pressing firmly or touching gently – for us humans to be able to execute a movement, counteracting muscles must always work together. The developers have applied this principle of agonist (player) and antagonist (opponent) in the technology for all seven joints in the BionicCobot.

There are three axes in the shoulder area, one axis each in the elbow and lower arm and two axes in the wrist. Each axis has a vane with two air chambers. These form a pair of drives, which can be continuously adjusted like a mechanical spring by filling them with compressed air.

Safe handling and intuitive operability

The unique drive concept allows the force potential and, hence, also the rigidity level of the robot arm to be determined exactly. In the event of a collision, the pneumatic arm automatically gives way and does not pose any danger to humans. The system’s inherent pliability and the low net weight allow it to be used without a protective cage, thus making direct and safe collaboration between human and machine possible.

The BionicCobot is operated intuitively by means of a graphic user interface developed in-house. The user can use a tablet to easily teach the actions to be performed and arrange them in any sequence. The programmed motion sequences are transferred via the ROS (Robot Operating System) open-source platform to the integrated Festo Motion Terminal, which controls the kinematics.

Taking the strain in the collaborative workspaces of the future

Whether it is shorter lead times, faster product life cycles or high flexibility with regard to quantities and variety, the requirements of production of the future are manifold and changing faster than ever before. This demands a new way for humans, machines and data to interact. Alongside the digital networking of entire facilities, the focus is also on robot-based automation solutions that will assist people in day-to-day collaboration in the future.

Due to its safe interaction, natural motion sequences and intuitive operation, the BionicCobot has great potential in a wide range of industries. In particular, it could be used as an assistance robot and take the strain off humans, especially when it comes to monotonous, mindless or even dangerous activities.