BioRob: An Almost Human Robot Arm

An industrial robot working side by side with the worker, standing next to you on the table and able to reprogram over and over again. BioRob GmbH, a spin-off from the TU Darmstadt, wants to set standards for automation in the lowest payload area. Its lightweight construction is based on the human arm and does not require any additional safety technology.

BioRob: The robotic arm modeled after a human model can hold objects weighing up to 0.5 kilograms.

BioRob: The robotic arm modeled on a human model can hold objects weighing up to 0.5 kilograms.

Photo: Archiv

Jan Röhlinger holds the robot arm almost tenderly on the gripper and guides it from point A to point B. One mouse click – the device has already saved the lane. “Within five to ten minutes, even a user who has never programmed a robot before can set up and start such a system,” assures the CEO of BioRob GmbH.

The colleague from the panel is cooperative: he hands out parts or hold them tight while man welds or mounts. No fences and light barriers separate the two. There are not even cameras and sensors that stop the robot or make people dodge it. “Our security concept is initially purely passive,” says Röhlinger. The aluminum construction of the “upper arm” weighs less than 1 kg: so it can not cause serious injury even at high speed. Springs between the gripper and the motor act as a buffer in the event of a collision.

Motor Replaces Muscle

The lightweight and pliable robot arm is modeled on the human musculo-tendon apparatus. “A motor instead of the muscle is connected by tendons – a Strecker and a Beuger – with the joint”, so Röhlinger. “Depending on whether you want to move the arm to the right or left, pulls the engine via a cable the joint in one or the other direction.” The engine is no longer in the joint as in classic industrial robots, but offset in the “shoulder” , The advantage: The moving mass is very low. “We use proven technology, such as electric motors, ropes, springs and ball bearings. We only rearrange them and thus have a system with innovative properties, “emphasizes the company founder.

Already in 1997, biology professor Bernhard Möhl from Saarland came up with the idea of ​​designing a robot based on a human model. With the prototype he tingled for several years through the Federal Republic: in vain. His time had not yet come, suspected Röhlinger: “But now the subject of assistance robotics is suddenly on everyone’s agenda.”

Oskar von Stryk, Head of Simulation, System Optimization and Robotics at TU Darmstadt, developed the Control software for the prototype of his Saarland colleagues. And the founding industrial engineer Röhlinger was looking for a team to join. The founding consultancy UniTechSpin of the TU Darmstadt has given it to the BioRob developers. In 2010, the trio founded the BioRob GmbH. The following year, the young company was honored as a “place in the land of ideas.”

The hardware for the intelligent machine is produced by Tetra, the company for sensor technology, robotics and automation mbH in Ilmenau. For their part, the people of Darmstadt have specialized in the regulation and equipment of accessories. The first small series went to research institutions and universities. Industrial customers have been supplied since the beginning of the year.

Only for lightweights: At half a kilo is final

Usually, BioRob will perform the classic activities of an industrial robot, assumes Röhlinger, namely equip machines or parts in Sort boxes. Except that it works in the area of ​​lowest payloads: up to 0.5 kg. Larger weights would negate its passive safety concept.

All sorts of curious applications are nevertheless conceivable. At trade fairs, visitors liked to play around with the model, the young entrepreneur explains: “You can immediately see how they go through their own company processes and see what they can automate with it.” An outfitter of commercial kitchens had come up with the robot in canteens to insert plates from a pile hundreds of times per meal and place them on the conveyor belt. A boxwood producer wanted to use it to shape the green.