Innovation That Matters

Airbag for robots eliminates risk to co-working humans

Work & Lifestyle

The cushioning could help robots work at their full capacity without fear of creating a risk to humans working alongside them.

Researchers from Germany’s Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics have developed a robotic airbag that inflates when the machine is operating at high velocities. In the modern age where robots are gradually being introduced into working environments such as warehouses, they pose level of risk to their human co-workers as machines can malfunction. Researchers believe this cushioning could eliminate such risk and a call for extra safety sensors being installed on every robot deployed in such an environment.

Robots can come in the form of that similar to a human, or simply an ‘arm’ programmed to perform a particular manufacturing task within a factory, for example. The airbag is specifically created to be effective in actual collisions in addition to detecting potential collisions. If a person is in the work area of the robot, the airbag is activated as soon as the robot starts a movement. This means that the airbag is filled with compressed air and encloses the tool and the workpiece with a secure air cushion pad. By releasing the air, the full functionality of the tool is restored. Two integrated pressure sensors are used to ensure proper operation and enable collision detection.

Experiments have been carried out with the airbag, and it was found that MRK requirements – that of robots and human working side-by-side – could not be met without the use of the airbag. The airbag was presented to the public for the first time in 2016 and won the EUR 20,000 KUKA Innovation Award at the Hanover Fair 2017.

The integration of robotics into the mainstream still seems hard to believe, and that of something created for films. Robots are being used in factories to assist with the creation of shoes and are even helping farmers make more affordable biofuels. What form of robot has the biggest impact on your life without you even considering it bizarre?



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