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From orchards to outer space – this robotic arm knows no bounds

23 March 2018

The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has developed a new type of robotic arm that could be used in space, agriculture, industry and even search and rescue.

This design makes it ideal for use in space applications (Credit: BGU/YouTube)

The minimally actuated serial robot (MASR) acts like a traditional snake robot with several connected motors, expect in this case, it only uses two. One is used to travel along the structure and another to rotate the joint it needs to flex.

"This unique minimalistic configuration, which can be applied to any serial robot with two or more links, reduces weight, size and cost," says Dr. David Zarrouk, a senior lecturer in BGU's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and head of the Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab. It allows a robotic manipulator to achieve a wide range of movements using few actuators that aren't possible with other robots. 

“This robot is easy to operate and likely has a number of applications including space, agriculture, and industry, as well as search and rescue," Dr. Zarrouk adds. 

"The configuration of the MASR robot combines the best characteristics of existing robot technologies to achieve a high level of accuracy and control," he says. "In addition, the ability to add or subtract up to four links in less than a minute makes it possible to target quick repairs in isolated sections." 

This design makes it ideal for use in space applications, as its light weight and inertia can be used to fix satellites or for docking and refuelling. Picking fruit is also another possible application, as the video demonstrates.

Video courtesy of zarrouk lab

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