KCF Awarded SBIR Funding to Improve Robotic Actuators

Project Looking to Provide More Precise, and User-Friendly Control of Robotic Actuators

State College, Pa. November 06, 2013

Human-robot interactions require robots that are very strong but are intrinsically safe for the human interface. Some tasks require high forces to lift, pull, or carry and other tasks require fine motor control and precise motion. There is a need for robotic actuator hardware that can adapt to this wide range of applications without risk of human injury. To solve this problem, KCF Technologies was awarded an Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project.

Following the lead of Army TATRC efforts in improving and implementing robotics, KCF, in partnership with Penn State, will evaluate and demonstrate a new generation of inherently safe robotic actuators built up from micro-actuator module units. The technical approach is based on state-of-the art prosthetic development where the human-mechanism interface is the primary focus.

Two competing force-delivery technologies are being prototyped and evaluated in the Phase I project. The first of these relies on actuation units made of electro-active polymer, using polymers that change in size or shape when stimulated by an electric field. The second technology consists of micro-hydraulic valves with flexible matrix composite units using magneto-rheological fluid, a liquid whose properties can be changed by applying a magnetic field.

"The widespread use of robotics and the increasing frequency with which people interact with it in their daily lives makes harmonious, productive coexistence a must for the 21st century," said project lead Dr. Michael Grissom. "Developing actuators capable of operating safely and reliably in the presence of people -- on the job, and eventually in the home -- will remove one of the few remaining barriers to having robots as service providers. This technology will enable the true productive power of robotic automation to be realized."

KCF Technologies is a dynamic technology company that develops and commercializes embedded intelligence solutions for industry and the military. The company vision is to be a leader in the development of federally-funded technologies and bridge the gap to successful commercial products by establishing strategic partnerships.

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