Friday, 10 March 2017

Linear Actuators For Robotics - A Thousand Applications


linear actuators in robotics

Robots have come a long way in the last few decades. The word robot used to conjure up images of the B-9 Robot from Lost In Space or R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars. In the 1980s, we were introduced to the Terminator, one of the more modern ideas of what a robot should be. Linear actuators in robotics have helped advance the technology to something that looks a little more at-home in the 21st century. 

What is a robot?

There are various definitions for what a robot is but it can be summed up like this: A robot is a machine that is capable of performing tasks either on it's own (autonomously) or controlled by an operator.

Robots range from industrial devices that have no defined form such as robotic machines in manufacturing that perform various tasks. Some robots are more human-like. Though Terminator, Data from Star Trek and the robots from the movie I-Robot with Will Smith are fictional, they're not far off from what today's technology is capable of producing.

Applications For Linear Actuators In Robotics

There are tens of thousands of different types of robots in use today. Some are available for the public to purchase, some are industry-specific or developed by governments. Below I'm going to offer some examples of different industries that are using robots today and how linear actuators are not only assisting them, but making these machines possible.

Prosthetics

Prosthetics of decades past were clunky devices that had limited motion capabilities. In the last decade, prosthetics, particularily prosthetic hands, have come a long way towards being fully-functional. In some ways, strength for example, they can outperform biological hands. With help of 3D printing technology, they're also becoming much more affordable.



The introduction of micro linear actuators has helped make this possible. Tiny actuators that can fit within a prosthetic hand have made it possible to not only drive the fingers directly, rather than with motors and cables, but offer incredible strength. This is why manufacturers around the world are choosing the best micro linear actuator for prosthetics, the Actuonix PQ12 for their products.

The PQ12 can be found in robotic and prosthetic hands from leading manufacturers around the world including Open Bionics, YouBionic, noDNA and the Active Robots AR10 hand, which is an option for the popular Baxter Robot.

Drones

These days, drones rule the skies. Available in a thousand different varieties from as many manufacturers, drones have exploded in popularity in the last decade. Used in many industries including military, photography, surveying, fire, search and rescue and many others, drones are here to stay.

Drones have grown in functionality in recent years. Since Actuonix invented them, the affordable micro linear actuator has been used in drones for such acessories as camera gimbals, retractable landing gear, arms for grasping, picking up and dropping items, and other customizations.

Now that it's possible to buy RC linear servos that are plug and play compatible, these devices are going to continue to rise in popularity against rotary servos.

Aerospace

Our micro linear actuators are space-certified! Affordable linear actuators in aerospace was laughable in decades past but I'm happy to tell you that our L12 actuators are circling your head on the International Space Station as you read this!

linear actuators for aerospace



This is just one way that these products have affected the aerospace industry. This is an area where we have limited intel in to how these products are being used as aerospace companies are usually on the cutting-edge of tech and often unwilling to tell us what they're building.

Automation in Manufacturing

Motion control in manufacturing is becoming more important as robots are doing many jobs that used to be performed by humans. The best jobs for robots are jobs that are repetitious, tedious, dangerous or require high-precision and consistency. Linear actuators in manufacturing are helping to streamline processes and keep product prices low.

Autonomous Robots

Autonomous robots are devices that can detect what's happening in their environment and adapt accordingly. Everybody remembers the iconic Roomba. When it was first released it caused a lot of excitement for the future of autonomous robots. It's ability to completely clean a floor without human assistance was a brand-new concept and it introduced the general public to the idea of autonomous robots.

Autonomous robots make use of linear actuators to perform different functions such as driving arms, directing cameras, adjust height as well as many other applications

Animatronic Displays

We're starting to notice that our products are regularly being used in animatronic displays. An art once dominated by the rotary servo, linear actuators in animatronics have simplified linear movements and allow builders to take their creations to new heights. For a cool demo of an animatronic Halloween costume, check out this automated Ironman mask.

Education

FIRST Robotics is helping hone the skills of young engineers and hobbyists all over the world. FIRST teams are building some incredibly cutting-edge robots and many of them choose our FRC legal micro linear servos to give their robots added functionality. Actuonix is proud to not only offer products that are FIRST competition legal, but we sponsor various FIRST robotics teams.

A while back we had the pleasure of having our local FIRST team in the shop here to demonstrate their 2017 robot build. It has a shooter mechanism that uses our L16 actuators to pull against a spring, it them lets go and springs back shooting a ball outwards. It's a great robot and we wish them luck this season.


Having access to linear actuators in robotics projects and training is helping the next generation of engineers design products that we will all benefit from in the future. We're committed to supporting the education of young engineers and through college project sponsorship and our generous student discount have put our actuators into the hands of hundreds of students who would not otherwise have access to them.

Custom Models

Many don't realize this, but there are dozens of clubs out there dedicated to building custom models ranging from the B-2 Lost In Space Robot through to R2D2 and more. Iv'e recently had the pleasure of working with Doug, a world-class R2D2 builder, and his R2D2 model is nothing short of amazing. It's voice activated and fully-functional. Check out Doug's build on YouTube.


cheap linear actuators

Micro linear actuators for RC and custom models help builders like Doug bring their creations to new heights and offer new levels of functionality.

Conclusion

Linear actuators in robotics are helping drive many different industries. They offer movement possibilities that were  not previously available with rotary servos or the expensive linear actuators of the past. These devices are helping drive the ever-evolving world of robotics, and we're glad to be on the forefront of this motion revolution.

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