An engineering company has played a central role in the development of a humanoid robot that takes its engineering cues from the workings of the human body.
Eccerobot-2, from the University of Zurich’s artificial intelligence lab, is built around a solid but flexible skeleton, covered with layers of mechanical tendons and muscle. These “muscles” mimic their human counterparts using an elastic cord, attached to powerful servo motors, which wind or unwind depending on the direction of spin. This cord is connected to a marine-strength rubber rope, which emulates the elastic nature of natural muscles.
The robot features 80 DC motors from Berkshire-based Maxon Motor UK that power the various actuators. The resulting mechanisms are claimed to be the closest robotics engineers have come to replicating human versatility.
The motors offer high torque in a limited space and were selected for the task of keeping the elastic at exactly the right tension and to work against its natural pull.
Ian Bell, senior sales engineer at Maxon, said: “With its bone-like skeleton and mechanical muscles, the Eccerobot-2 really does feel incredibly human. The brushed motors are at the heart of every single muscle on the robot just goes to show their incredible power and precision.”
Meanwhile, Maxon's engineers have been working with the oil and gas industry to develop a small 22mm diameter motor reliable enough to operate pressure testing valves in completion tools at depths of 5,000m. The project involved constructing a testing laboratory at its Swiss technology centre, complete with extreme temperature facilities and vibration testing rigs. The new motor was found to survive temperatures as high as 240°C, operating at 200°C and under atmospheric pressure conditions from high vacuum to 1,700bar (25,000psi). Moreover, the motor performed despite vibration of up to 25grms, and resisted impulse and impact forces of 100G: 50 times those undergone by Maxon’s motors in jet fighters and Formula 1 cars.
In addition, testing while fully submerged in oil revealed its initial 80-watt output rating in air could be trebled under such conditions, because of vastly improved heat dissipation.
The motor’s tolerances and capabilities have since enabled oilfield applications beyond its original intended use in actuating valves; including running as a mud-driven turbine to power remote positioning instrumentation in deep boreholes.