NASA ROBONAUT PROJECT
Robonaut is a dexterous humanoid robot built and designed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The core idea behind the Robonaut series is to have a humanoid machine work alongside astronauts. NASA believes that the Robonauts will expand their ability for construction and discovery. The Robanaut project is essential to NASA’s future as they go beyond low earth orbit and continue to explore the vast wonders of space.
UNLIKE ITS PREDECESSORS, THE R2
The unique challenge NASA engineers faced on latest R2, the current iteration of the Robonaut series, is it needed to be highly dexterous, anthropomorphic, and should include a deeper and wider range of sensing. Central to that effort is a capability of dexterous manipulation, embodied by an ability to use one’s hand to do work, and the challenge has been to build machines with dexterity that exceeds that of a suited astronaut. While most current space robotic systems focus on moving large objects – such as robotic arms, cranes and exploration rovers – Robanaut’s task require more dexterity.
CIREXX CAME TO HELP
NASA wanted R2 to have close to human range of motion and sensitivity, capable of moving its arms up to 2 m/s and has a 40 lb. payload capacity.
In addition, its hands need to have a grasping force of roughly 5 lbs. per finger. In order to accomplish this, they need a flexible circuit that can bend and flex like a human arm that would be easy to integrate with its 350 sensors. To complete the project, they needed a reputable Printed Circuit Board manufacturing plant. They approached Cirexx because of their highly experienced manufacturing personnel and their ability to work outside the box. Since, Cirexx International specializes in prototype to production volume flex circuits they would be up to the task. For months, NASA and Cirexx engineers worked closely developing a human-like forearm, palm and finger tips using multilayer flex circuit that spans the entire R2’s complex arm system. Cirexx accomplished the printed circuit board with advanced technology that includes an optimized overlapping dual arm dexterous workspace, series elastic joint technology, and extended finger and thumb travel, miniaturized 6-axis load cells, and redundant force sensing, ultra-high speed joint controllers.