The robotic arms in the AMERAH Competition
Environmental Robots Inc (ERI) - www.environmental-robots.com
Environmental Robots Inc (ERI),
Materials Testing and Research,
EMPA is a Swiss Federal laboratory and it is part of the Switzerland Federal Institutes of Technology. This research center is responsible for developing materials and system engineering technologies and their transfer to industrial applications. The Smart Structures Group of EMPA, who developed one of the competing EAP arms, is working on biomimetic and human/machine interfacing technologies that include artificial muscles. They developed under the lead of Gabor Kovacs a robotic arm that is driven by the dielectric elastomer type using multi-layered scrolled actuators that are organized in 4 groups. Using electronic control, these actuators are operated similar to human muscles, where two of these groups act as protagonists and the other two operate as antagonists. The arm has an outer shell made of fiberglass that is used as a shield for the electric section. The arm structure is made of composite sandwich consisting of fiberglass and carbon fibers.
A group of three senior students from the Engineering Science and Mechanics Dept., Virginia Tech, have teamed up to develop for their senior design class an EAP robotic arm that will wrestle with the human opponent. As an EAP actuator they constructed batches of PAN gel fibers that were designed to operate as artificial muscles. To encase the fibers and chemicals that make up their EAP actuator, they designed an electrochemical cell. For the skeleton of the arm they used a structure that is made of composite material and, for support, this structure was connected to an aluminum base. In the photo from left to right: John Cotton, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics (ESM) and the three students, Steve Deso, Noah papas and Steve Ros.
In June 2005, the VT students completed a modified version of their arm and it can be seen on the right where the artificial muscles are clearly visible in this photo.