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PoweRing - A gearbox for next-generation robots

On December 17th, 2021, Flander's Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship VLAIO confirmed the nomination of the VUB's Spin-Off project PoweRing (HBC.2021.0843) for an Innovation Mandate support grant. This Innovation Mandate is a support instrument of Flander's agency VLAIO for postdoctoral researchers who want to carry out further basic research in close collaboration with the business community, with a view to transferring results to either an existing company or a new spin-off company to be established with an industrial activity in Flanders.

The PoweRing project builds on the R2poweR technology developed by this group with the support of both a Proof-of-Concept grant of Innoviris, the Institute for Research and Innovation of the city of Brussels, and an Innovation Entrepreneurship Fund (IOF) grant of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Currently, this novel, patent-pending gearbox technology has been demonstrated a technology readiness level TRL4. The aim of the PoweRing project is to promote R2poweR now to TRL6 maturity and to build a business model to bring this technology to the market through a VUB spin-off.

This grant allows the Robotics & Multibody Dynamics group to pursue its research on novel gearbox solutions that match the specific actuation needs of modern robotic devices including cobots, exoskeletons, prostheses, or emergency robots. Contrary to conventional industrial robots, these modern robots are not placed anymore behind heavy fences to grant the integrity of an operator who may accidentally approach but can actually interact physically and directly with these operators. And collaborative robotic devices leave behind not just safety fences: their ability to interact directly with us has also taken them already outside factory environments and into small laboratories, offices, pioneer restaurants, health establishments, and even some private households.

Traditionally, robotic engineers incorporate compact robotic gearboxes in their actuators which are mainly based on strain-wave (harmonic drive ©) and cycloid technologies. These gearboxes are broadly used in the conventional industrial robots, which successfully use them to rapidly move heavy loads with extreme accuracy. Collaborative devices have different actuation needs that make available compact robotic gearboxes not ideal for them, as weight - and therefore efficiency - is more crucial than the extreme accuracy that characterizes the movement of industrial robots.

R2poweR is born from the need to find a novel gearbox technology that provides a better match for the specific needs of collaborative robotic devices and can unleash their full potential to empower us and improve our lives. The research team behind this technology is led by Prof. Dirk Lefeber and Prof. Tom Verstraten. In case you are interested to know more about R2poweR and PoweRing, you can find below the contact information of the responsible researcher-entrepreneur:

Related Publications

  • Crispel, S., Garcia, P. L., Saerens, E., Varadharajan, A., Verstraten, T., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2021). A Novel Wolfrom-based Gearbox for Robotic Actuators. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics.
  • Garcia, P. L., Crispel, S., Saerens, E., Verstraten, T., and Lefeber, D. (2020). Compact gearboxes for modern robotics: A review. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 7, 103.
  • Crispel, S., Garcia, P. L., Verstraten, T., Saerens, E., & Lefeber, D. (2020). Introduction of a redundant actuator using planetary gear trains for human centred robotics. In MATEC Web of Conferences (Vol. 317, p. 01003). EDP Sciences.
  • Garcia, P. L., Crispel, S., Verstraten, T., Saerens, E., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2019, September). Wolfrom planetary gear trains for lightweight, human-centered robotics. In International Conference on Gears 2019 (pp. 753-764). VDI-Verein der Deutsche Ingenieure.
  • Garcia, P. L., Crispel, S., Verstraten, T., Saerens, E., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2019). Customizing planetary gear trains for human limb assistance and replication. In MATECWeb of Conferences (Vol. 287, p. 01014). EDP Sciences.
  • Verstraten, T., Furnémont, R., Garcia, P. L., Rodriguez-Cianca, D., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2019). Kinematically redundant actuators, a solution for conflicting torque–speed requirements. The International Journal of Robotics Research, 38(5), 612-629.
  • Saerens, E., Crispel, S., Garcia, P. L., Verstraten, T., Ducastel, V., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2019). Scaling laws for robotic transmissions. Mechanism and Machine Theory, 140, 601-621.
  • Verstraten, T., Furnémont, R., Garcia, P. L., Rodriguez-Cianca, D., Cao, H. L., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2018). Modeling and design of an energy-efficient dual-motor actuation unit with a planetary differential and holding brakes. Mechatronics, 49, 134-148.
  • Verstraten, T., Furnémont, R., Garcia, Pablo Lopez, Crispel, S., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2018, October). A series elastic dual-motor actuator concept for wearable robotics. In International Symposium on Wearable Robotics (pp. 165-169). Springer, Cham.
  • Garcia, P. L., Crispel, S., Verstraten, T., Saerens, E., Convens, B., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2018, October). Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA)-driven design of a planetary gearbox for active wearable robotics. In International Symposium on Wearable Robotics (pp. 460-464). Springer, Cham.
  • Crispel, S., Garcia, P. L., Verstraten, T., Convens, B., Saerens, E., Vanderborght, B., and Lefeber, D. (2018, October). Introducing compound planetary gears (C-PGTs): a compact way to achieve high gear ratios for wearable robots. In International Symposium on Wearable Robotics (pp. 485-489). Springer, Cham.
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