Ann, this sounds like the begining of an Iron Man. Actually it is very cool. I was also struck by the number of research projects you mention at the end of the article that are based on the gripping approach of natural systems. This is an interesting field of research, as is haptics itself.
naperlou, you're right, there's been a slew of robotic hands and gloves recently that we've reported on. Seems like a growing invention/application area. I was especially intrigued by this one because it seems like quite a sophisticated design, and also because it takes advantage of additive manufacturing to custom-design and manufacture each one.
Impressive technology. It's amazing how complex the assembly is and also how it integrates eight pneumatic actuators plus sensing technology. Would be interested to know how this technology is being deployed.
Al, the applications Festo cites are remote operation in dangerous environments, an aid to workers performing repetitive, forceful tasks, as well as for service robots aimed at the elderly, and as part of a system for helping stroke patients learn to use their hands again.
Thanks, Ann. All of those applications makes sense. FESTO must have had a significant commercial opportunity in one of these areas to develop such an extensive applications solution. It really shows how engineering know-how, in this case motion control, can be applied in a wide range of applications.
I'd bet you're right about the commercial opportunity. However, it's worth noting that the company is already involved in such a broad number of interrelated technologies for mechatronics, as well as the other, related R&D projects mentioned, that I can imagine the hand idea might have also come from internal development efforts.
Given the advances in this hand, it's only a matter of time before we have an entire robot that can be operated remotely by a person inside a suit covered with sensors. At that point, I would imagine we gain some significant ability to literally walk into hazardous environments.
Chuck, glad you liked the story. There wasn't a lot of technical detail, but it may be available on the website at the link I gave: http://www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/12713.htm perhaps in the brochure, or in the components descriptions found elsewhere on the site. Let us know if you find out.
We have standardized on FESTO cylinders & linear & rotary actuators for the past 15 or so years, and have never regretted the decision. Most applications of the FESTO devices have shown their extreme reliability during this period. Most of the machines operate 5 days per week and have experienced virtually no breakdowns to date. An occasional position sensor failure has been the most serious situation. While they may be a bit on the "pricey" side, having assurance that you will not have to fill your tool crib with spare items is a relief. At one time, as I recall, the FESTO technical rep mentioned that their motion products are designed for a 25,000 km life expectancy. I can attest that several of our installed machines have actuators which have exceeded that figure with ease, yet continue to perform with minute accuracy. Seeing this demonstration of their research ability does not surprise me.
OLD_CURMUDGEON, thanks for your real-world input on the company's components. It's also worth noting that, aside from their products, another main focus for the company is their Bionic Learning Network, which is biomimicry R&D in cooperation with universities and other research entities.
It is difficult to control motion with precision using pneumatics. How was mid stroke position control done? How about "stiffness' of position? I would have though that hydralics or servo motor would have been better.
You're very correct in your observation about controlling pneumatic actuators midspan. I have accomplished this with a fair degree of accuracy both in the vertical plane & the horizontal plane. It's NOT easy, but with powerful processors & some due diligence, it can be done. At least I've done it with several designs, which have been working well for several years without any creep or change due to wearing components.
Excellent article and a fascinating subject.I work in an industry in which carpal-tunnel syndrome seems to be the norm and not the exception.I have friends who have undergone surgery to repair tendons damaged from the syndrome and some have told me there were times when the pain was so great they considered amputation.(I know that's hard to believe but there were more than a few.)This device could possibly provide some method to mitigate (and alleviate) pain associated with repetitive movement during assembly processes.I feel the overall concept is excellent and definitely worth pursuing.Festo has always been on the cutting edge relative to pneumatics so maybe they really have something here.
Bob, I do agree with you that the Festo hand could be used in the application of alleviting carpal-tunnel syndrome in manufacturing. I can remember the number of carpal-tunnel cases announced weekly when I worked as a Plant Electrical Enginner for GM Auto plant in Ypsilanti,MI in the late 1980s. The material in the article was excellent.
bobjengr, I've had friends and associates who've suffered from carpal tunnel and while none have made that dramatic a statement, I can believe the level of your friends' agony. The ExoHand is designed to make those repetitive tasks easier (or even possible) and to prevent conditions like carpal tunnel from developing in the first place.
TJ, You're right about the diversity of the applications that might not have commercial appeal. Although the smart bird, for example, reminds me of technology that might be used at Disney. Big market for motion control solutions in theme parks and entertainment venues
Ann, Any idea if the cost of this technology will hold it back in terms of applications? It offers a great many benefits but the mechanical design alone seems to be quite complex along with integration of many actuators and sensors. Very interesting technology.
Al, good question, but the company did not divulge price. You're right, it does look like some pretty sophisticated and high-quality technology. OTOH, this is designed for highly automated manufacturing lines and medical apps, so one could guess that it may be reasonably priced within those parameters.
Digital healthcare devices and wearable electronic products need to be thoroughly tested, lest they live short, ignominious lives, an expert will tell attendees at UBM’s upcoming Designers of Things conference in San Jose, Calif.
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