A Magneto-Rheological-Based Clutch System for Robots


The new frontier in the development of industrial automation lies in the area of small and medium enterprises where robots will be required to work in close proximity to human counterparts. Conventional means of safely actuating robotic devices involve the use of specially modified servo motors at each joint to control motion, in conjunction with gearing to generate the required amount of torque. This method greatly increases the inertia of the robot making it act heavier than it actually is. As a result, when such robots are used in close proximity to humans, the robot must operate slowly to mitigate the potential harm caused in the case of a collision.

Description of the Invention:

Researchers at Western University have developed a novel technology using magneto-rheological (MR) fluids in an actuation mechanism that connects a typical motor to a load. Magneto-rheological (MR) fluids are smart materials that instantaneously and reversibly change viscosity in the presence of a magnetic field, allowing them to transfer force/torque. By controlling the strength of the magnetic field, it is possible to accurately control the torque in the clutch system.

Western’s innovative approach eliminates the need for multiple motors, gears and sensors; reduces the weight and increases the inherent safety of the robot; and substantially lowers the cost of production opening previously unexplored avenues for the use of automation in small and medium enterprises.

The following video describes the MR actuation mechanism further:

Potential Advantages:

• Uses only one motor to move in multiple DOF, reduces cost to produce actuators
• Flexible technology applicable to various complex or simple actuation systems
• Incorporates inexpensive force/torque sensors for precise force/torque measurements

Potential Applications:

• Magneto-Rheological Fluids
• Economic Torque Sensors
• Actuation Systems
• Automation

Patent Status:

National phase patents allowed in US and Canada.

Patent Information:

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