|The WAM arm consists of a shoulder that operates on a gearless differential mechanism, an upper arm, a gear-free elbow, forearm, and wrist. This arrangement of joints coincides with the human shoulder and elbow, but with much greater range of motion.|
Barrett Technology,® Inc.,
of Cambridge, Massachusetts, received the 2003 Robotic Industries
Associations Joseph Engelberger Award for Technology Leadership based on successful commercialization
of its novel robotic manipulators. Designed for applications
requiring superior adaptability, programmability, and dexterity,
Barretts devices provide state-of-the-art functionality and capability, as well as product
integration with existing technology. The cutting-edge robotic
manipulators originated through collaboration with NASA, the
National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force.
In the 1990s, NASAs
Johnson Space Center awarded Barrett four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts, leading the company to develop the first commercially available cable-driven
robots. Today, the company supports two robotic manipulator
product lines: the Whole-Arm Manipulation System (WAM) and its BH8-Series hands, both of which received funding through SBIR contracts. During a Phase
II SBIR contract with Johnson, Barrett designed the EVA-Retriever
WAM arm for NASAs use as an autonomous robot to recover crew or tools outside of the Space Station.
The WAM arm outperforms todays
conventional robots through its extraordinary dexterity, transparent
dynamics, high bandwidth, zero backlash, and near-zero friction.
The device can reach around objects and clasp them, much like
a person holding a large item between his or her forearm and
upper arm without compromising the use of hands for small items.
Conventional robotic arms are strictly limited to the use of
hand end-effectors and therefore small payloads. The WAM arm
is also distinguished from other arms with its use of gear-free
cable drives to manipulate its joints.
|The BarrettHand, a multi-fingered programmable grasper, can pick up objects of various shapes and sizes.|
Listed in the Millennium Edition of The
Guinness Book of World Records (2000) as the worlds most advanced robotic arm, the WAM arm closely resembles its human counterpart.
The arm consists of a shoulder that operates on a gearless
differential mechanism, an upper arm, a gear-free elbow, forearm,
and wrist. This arrangement of joints coincides with the human
shoulder and elbow, but with much greater range of motion.
Like a persons arm, but unlike any industrial robotic arm, the WAM arm is backdriveable, meaning
that any contact force along the arm or its hand is immediately
felt at the motors, supporting graceful control of interactions
with walls, objects, and even people. With a human-scale 3-foot
reach, it is so quick that it can grab a major-league fastball,
yet so sensitive that it responds to the gentlest touch.
Like the WAM arm, the BH8-262 BarrettHand offers
many benefits in dexterity. A multi-fingered programmable grasper,
the BarrettHand can pick up objects of different sizes, shapes,
and orientations. According to the company, integrating this
device with any robotic arm is fast and simple, and immediately
multiplies the value of any arm requiring flexible automation.
The BarrettHand is compact and completely self-contained, weighing
only 1.18 kilograms (kg). The newest product in the series
is the soon-to-be-released BH8-601 Wraptor, a large-capacity 7-kg, three-fingered system featuring enhanced dexterity, a
vision-camera mount, and user-accessible sensor support on
all finger and palm surfaces. In addition to wrapping its fingers
around an object, the device can perform internal grasps by
reaching its fingers inside of an object and then spreading
The WAM arm, BarrettHand, and Wraptor
have commercial applications ranging from human-collaborative
medical surgery to emergency response to chemical, biological,
and nuclear materials. Barrett is also targeting markets such
as physical therapy, rehabilitation, assisted-living aids,
metrology, short-run manufacturing, and entertainment.
WAM, BH8-Series, BarrettHand, Wraptor, and
the Barrett Technology® logomark are trademarks of Barrett Technology, Inc.