Cable trays and flexible cable carriers for wiring robots seems like it could be a commoditized technology. But igus has developed an innovative robot joint module system unveiled last April at the Hanover Fair in Germany. Running wires for power and control through complex joints while keeping them from wearing, breaking or entangling is a challenge. The joints in the igus Robolink system are controlled by cable tension, in a similar way to the human mechanics of bones and tendons. All data cables are routed safely through the jointed arms, which are effectively the robot’s skeleton. These cables convey images, acoustics and forces, which are the artificial senses of humanoid robots.
Dr. Rudolf Bannasch is Managing Director at the Berlin-based company EvoLogics, a high-tech company working in the field of bionics and humanoid robots. He provided both the motivation and developmental support behind igus’ ground-breaking Robolink component.
“During the development of humanoid robots, we spend an enormous amount of time on the mechanisms,” says Dr. Bannasch, “We had been dreaming of a straightforward, modular system for quite some time.”
The need was to reduce development times so that artificial intelligence programmers could be involved earlier in the process. Luckily, igus has years of field experience with both humanoid and industrial robots. For example, many six-axis robots all over the world are fitted with the company’s Triflex® R multi-axis cable carrier systems.
The robot unit was primarily designed for robot developers and laboratories that work with humanoid systems, as well as with lightweight engineering solutions for handling and automation. igus’ development objective was to keep the moving mass as low as possible, so that the actuators can be separated from functioning tools, such as grippers, hands, suction cups, and so on. Particular attention was given to enabling a quick assembly and user-friendly design, as well as using tribo-optimized plastics to provide freedom from lubrication and low weight.