A new type of do-it-yourself (DIY) robot has been unveiled by the Robotics and Media Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
The new robot, which is called “Mode Man” and looks like the human upper body, allows users to attach industrial robot arms and hands freely for their specific application.
The research center recently took the wraps off the state-of-the-art robot for the first time after completing its development. It is now busy preparing for commercialization of the new robot.
Mode Man was developed as a collaborative robot that helps workers at production lines. It can replace several conventional collaborative robots as it can carry out various different tasks at the same time.
The DIY robot has attachable hands and arms built for different tasks, and this allows users to assemble them in a form they need. In particular, Mode Man can have six to seven sections connectively attached on both arms. It is also possible to combine the arm and hand modules in a wide variety of ways with no distinction of front and backside. Depending on how the user combines the modules, Mode Man's movement, speed, and power change.
Module attaching and detaching can be easily done by simply turning each arm and hand module connection to tighten or untighten. Two workmen can assemble Mode Man in just one minute. Even a single worker can assemble the versatile robot in two to three minutes. The “genderless” modules can be firmly connected without the need to distinguish between male and female connections. This technology of bonding joints between modules without male and female distinction is a unique achievement of the Mode Man research team, and the team has filed for an international standard with a relevant international organization. Lee Woo-seop, a senior researcher at KIST, said, "When this technology is adopted as an international standard, companies in developed countries will use our technology."
The team also achieved technological breakthroughs in software (SW). It has developed a control SW engine that can calculate the optimal movement of any hand and arm module combination. The movement of the robot arm can be expressed by the formula of the sine-cosine trigonometric function, which converts the rotational motion of the joint into the linear motion. The SW engine automatically calculates the mathematical expression that combines the trigonometric function and the matrix to control movement of any module combination.
Lee said, “The development method of the SW engine, which automatically constructs the calculation formula for the robot control by combining trigonometric functions and matrices, has been proposed by various academic papers in the past, but this is the first time that the proposal has been developed into an actual hardware robotic system.”
Back in 2014, when development of Mode Man began, the concept of collaborative robot was unfamiliar to the researchers. Only five years later, however, they succeeded in developing the core technology by themselves. Lee explained, "Korea’s collaborative robot technology level is now close to those of the United States, Japan, Germany, and Sweden. We can say that we are in the top group in some areas.”