Some years ago Reymond Clavel director of the Laboratory of Robotics Systems (LSRO) at EPFL invented the “Delta robot” that today is widely used in the packaging industry. It used a combination of arms in order to achieve a precise and complex movement path. (You can see a funny but descriptive recreation here). Today Murielle Richard a doctoral student from EPFL’s LSRO presented a new concept that evolves the idea of ‘parallel-type’ robot to a new modular arrangement aimed at approachable high-precision robotics.
The concept is a modular flexure-based mechanism for industrial ultra-high precision robotic applications. It will reduce both the complexity and the necessary development time.
The main idea is to reduce a 3 dimensional design problem to an assembly of several simpler 2D components. These modules are two-dimensional because they are located and function in a single plane. They are also much easier to fabricate monolithically and use very thin metal bands to allow movement. By combining several of these modular plates one can achieve ultra high precision and complex movement paths.
The scalability has obvious financial benefits and the application is simplified compared to a specialized robot.
A 5doF proof of concept prototype was created and you can see it in the video above. It is named Legolas because of its extreme precision (like the Lord of the Rings character) and its similarity to the modular nature of Lego. You can read more in EPFL’s news website, or read the original paper from the journal Mechanical Sciences (pdf). You can also read related papers in Murielle Richard’s website in EPFL.