I think that when many of us think of the word ‘robot’ we picture a metal man, who can perform basic functions such as walk and pick up objects. However there are not actually many bipedal robots that can walk around, and most robots that we use today aren’t nearly that complex. One type of robot that has been around for a while now and that was meant to mimic human movements is the delta robot. We’ll go over the history of that today, and we also have an Ancestry.com coupon code so that you can look into yours!
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What is a delta robot?
A delta robot is a robot that has three arms, otherwise known as a parallel robot. Parallelograms are used in the arms so that the orientation of the end effector can be maintained. These robots might perform tasks like picking and placing, 3D printing, surgery, and there was even one programmed to draw portraits! They are most often used on assembly lines for packaging and clean room assembly operations for electronic components. They do have a somewhat limited range of motion and can not rotate, only move on the X, Y, and Z axis. However this does make them ideally suited to precision work, which is why you see them used for surgery and electronics assembly.
How did the delta robot come about?
I think the history of how the delta robot came into being is fascinating. The reason that the delta robot exists today is: chocolate. Yes, chocolate. In the early 1980s, a team of researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland went to visit a chocolate maker. While they were there, a member of the chocolate making staff made a comment about how they wanted a robot that could package their pralines for them. And they weren’t the only type of industry looking for a robot that could move small objects at high speeds, as it turns out there was a lot of interest. So, in 1987 after a few years of development the license for the delta robot was purchased by a Swiss company and it went into production for sale to the packaging industry.
In 1999 Reymond Cleval who had lead the research team from EPFL and had written his doctoral thesis on delta robots was the recipient of the Golden Robot award for his work. Many years later in 2017 the Harvard Microrobotics Lab came out with a miniaturized version of the delta robot that could move a load of up to 1.3 grams around a 7 cubic millimetre workspace. That might sound extremely small, but it’s potential applications for work that requires a painstaking amount of accuracy is almost unlimited.
Future applications of delta robots
Although still most commonly used for packaging, the delta robot has been seeing growth in a lot of other areas as well. One of the most notable of these is its use in 3D printing. Because of its level of precision and the way that it moves it’s a great option for the layer by layer fabricating that 3D printers do. If you know somebody who has a 3D printer they’ve probably told you all about how it can make anything. I think we are just scratching the surface of the potential applications for 3D printing, and delta robots will be a big part of that.