A mobile robot carefully transports a sample through a biotech lab where it is surrounded by the routine hustle and bustle. Lab technicians are conversing with one another and performing tests. One technician inadvertently runs into the robot, which stops moving immediately.
An artificial skin covering the robot makes this possible. Consisting of conductive foam, textiles and an intelligent evaluation circuit, the sensor system detects points of contact and differentiates between gentle and strong contact. It registers people immediately. The shape and size of the sensor cells implemented in the skin can be varied depending on the application. They detect any contact. The higher the number of sensor cells, the more precisely a point of collision can be detected. A sensor controller processes the measured values and transmits them to the robot or, alternatively, a computer, a machine or production line.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg designed and patented this sensor system in 2008 ..."Our artificial skin can be adapted to any complex geometry, including curved or very flat. We use large-area floor sensors to define safety zones that people may not enter", says Markus Fritzsche, researcher at the Fraunhofer IFF. "These areas can be changed dynamically."
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