The DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, a leader in robotic research, presented a new generation of light-weight robots at the 2000 Hanover Fair. DLR's Light-weight Robot II has an outstanding ratio of payload to total mass. It can move over 7 kg at full speed but weighs only 18 kg.
This extreme light-weight construction was made possible by optimizing all critical components with Finite Element Methods. Furthermore, very light gears, powerful motors and weight optimized brakes have been integrated into the robot.
Similar to the human arm, the robot has seven degrees of freedom which results in advanced flexibility in comparison to standard industrial robots.
All electronic components, including the power electronics, are integrated into the robot arm. No external rack, known from standard systems, is needed any more.
The integrated sensors are most progressive. Each of the Light-weight Robot´s II joints has a motor position sensor and sensors for joint position and -torque. Thus the robot can be position, velocity and torque controlled. This results in a highly dynamical system with vibration damping. These sensors can also be implemented into the servo drives of other companies.
Communication between the single joints is realized by an optical fibre bus system. The joint electronics are supplied galvanically isolated. The cable harness, consisting of a fibre optic cable, power supply and emergency stop circuit, is placed inside the robot.
Beside space applications there are many terrestrical tasks for the Light-weight Robot II. Mobile robots will become more and more important and they will need light-weight manipulators with integrated electronics.