ISELLA opens pathway to cheaper & safer prosthetic devices
German researchers have successfully worked on a bionic robot arm after studying an elephant’s trunk as the basis of its design. The technology applied is hoped to be used within a couple of years in therapy, restoring the use of injured limbs while producing low cost, flexible prosthetic devices. Since ordinary robotic arms are way too expensive to build and dangerous to operate for the layman, this bionic robot arm dubbed ISELLA will be pocket friendly and gentle on humans. As mentioned, an elephant’s trunk was the inspiration for its design, and hence let’s delve into it further after the jump.
An elephant’s trunk is gray in color, long, and soft, and comes with over 40,000 muscles to make it extremely agile. The trunk is capable of extreme acts, pulling a tree trunk as well as performing delicate manipulations with ease. This design model has been translated over to the robotic arm, using a simple, affordable muscle that is made out of a tiny electric motor with a drive shaft and cord. The cord links a couple of related moving parts together in the same manner as a tendon attaches one muscle to another. The midpoint of the cord is hooked up to the drive shaft, forming a kind of double helix (dubbed the DOHELIX) that can resist tremendous forces and has a higher transmission ratio than a conventional geared motor.
The ISELLA robot arm currently has ten of such DOHELIX muscles, boasting a flexor and an extensor for each articulated joint. Four of those are located in the elbow area, while the remaining six are in the upper arm. The robotic arm is currently as flexible as a human arm, and the research team is currently putting their finishing touches on the elbow. Looks like future patients who require a low cost, flexible prosthetic device can rely on the ISELLA robot arm, and with time and advances in technology, perhaps our brains can be fine tuned to control these arms as well just like the Six Million Dollar Man and his bionic body parts.