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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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