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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parallel-wire Robot for Solar-Thermal Plants

Credit: Fraunhofer IPA

Researchers from German Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), have developed a parallel-wire robot that might pave the way for an innovative concept for automation solutions to handle extreme requirements. One application might be lifting 7 tonne solar collectors, consisting of dozens of parabolic mirrors, for the Desertec consortium whose big idea is the building of gigantic solar-thermal plants in the desert. Desertec has calculated that if just 1% of the Sahara was devoted to solar energy production, enough electricity would be generated for the entire world at current annual levels of consumption.
IPAnema demonstrator robot
The IPAnema demonstrator robot consists almost entirely of cables and winches. The winches are fixed to movable square metal scaffolding. Held between the cables, which are controlled by the winches with the aid of a computer, is the tool, known as the end effector. In the past, it was hard to predict what the result would be when the actuators were moved, but now commands to the winches can be given in a completely synchronised way, thanks to computer modelling.
Compared with conventional industrial robots, the IPAnema wire robot boasts a large working area (2 m x 2 m x 1.5 m), high speeds up to 10 m/s and extreme acceleration >10 g and a wide payload range from 1 kg to 400 kg. These characteristics can also be adjusted in line with a specific problem: The working area can be up to 100 m x 100 m x 30 m depending on the application. The efficient transfer of force through the wires means each wire can support a payload of several tonnes. The robot is controlled by a real time-capable NC control system which can be programmed easily via the tried-and-tested G-Code (DIN 66025). A programmable logic controller (PLC) can be connected as an option, enabling existing plant to be integrated easily.

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