EOS sponsors the “Roboy” research project which replicates the human musculoskeletal system to advance robotics.
The first prototype – Roboy Junior – has muscles and tendons rather than motors in the joints. It has been developed under substantial usage of AM: The complete skeletal body structure of Roboy, which encases his bones and muscles, has been built with EOS systems for Plastic Additive Manufacturing. The use of Industrial 3D Printing has several key advantages; among them is the possibility of building complex functional geometries as well as sustaining a fast and iterative hardware development.
Values of Additive Manufacturing
Additive Manufacturing allows for highly complex structures which are also extremely light and stable. It provides a high degree of design freedom, optimization and integration of functional features, and the manufacture of small batch sizes at economical unit costs. The Roboy development benefits from all these advantages: Building complex functional geometries without classical fabrication constraints allows the Roboy team to implement functionality directly into the geometrical parts. Consequently, build complexity is reduced, and many of the otherwise necessary assembly steps can be dispensed of. For example, Roboy’s hands and forearms are manufactured in one piece, including several joints and individual phalanxes for each finger.
Rafael Hostettler, Roboy project leader, comments: “In software development, rapid development cycles allow software improvement by testing it ‘in the wild’. Additive Manufacturing allows us to apply this approach to robotics, enabling a rapid development to find optimal functional parts in a fraction of the time.” He continues: “EOS’ AM technology is a key component for doing this as it enables the iterative hardware development that is crucial for our project.“
Humanoid robotics: A vision with social impact
In the future, with the increasing advances in Artificial Intelligence and robotics, robots will play a much more prominent role both in society and at work – to the point that especially dangerous and repetitive tasks can be completed by robots. In this context, building robots with similar morphology to the human body yields critical advantages over classical robotic approaches. First and foremost, the human musculoskeletal system is a proven solution that leads to dexterous, dynamic and robust robots. In addition, a human-like robot eases interaction between human and machine significantly, making it more intuitive and natural. Over centuries humans have adapted the environment to fit their needs, humanoid robots can therefore fit into this environment more easily – thus avoiding expensive adaptions. Furthermore, building robots that are compatible with the human anatomy can help to augment and repair human mobility, with the use of exoskeletons and prosthetics, for example.