'Minimalist' Israeli-developed robotic arm could be used to pick apples
Israeli researchers have developed a new type of robotic arm they say could have a range of functions, including servicing satellites in outer space and picking apples from trees.
The team at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev created a minimally actuated serial robot (MASR) that operates much like a traditional snake robot with many connected motors, except that it only uses two: one to travel along the structure and another to rotate the joint it needs to flex.
"This unique minimalistic configuration, which can be applied to any serial robot with two or more links, reduces weight, size and cost," says Dr. David Zarrouk, a senior lecturer in BGU's Department of Mechanical Engineering.
It allows a robotic manipulator to achieve a wide range of movements using few actuators that aren't possible with other robots.
“This robot is easy to operate and likely has a number of applications including space, agriculture, and industry, as well as search and rescue," Zarrouk says.
The robot design is said to be ideal for space applications due to its lightweight and inertia and could be used to fix malfunctioning satellites, and for docking or refueling to increase their satellite lifespan. Zarrouk also envisions picking fruit as another potential application.
"The configuration of the MASR robot combines the best characteristics of existing robot technologies to achieve a high level of accuracy and control," he says.
"In addition, the ability to add or subtract up to four links in less than a minute makes it possible to target quick repairs in isolated sections."
The BGU researchers are also experimenting with adding motors to increase speed and are exploring ways to apply their minimally actuated concept to walking robots, using motors that can change position along the legs and move from one to another when necessary.