Having as many degrees of freedom as a human arm does gives this robotic arm precision and agility.
A degrees of freedom is simply the ability of an object to move up-and-down (pitch), left-and-right (yaw) and forward-and-backward (roll). By example, an airplane in flight has six degrees of freedom.
In humans, your shoulder has three degrees of freedom, but your elbow only moves up and down, so it only one degree of freedom. Your wrist bends up and down and side to side, with a little twist so it has three degrees of freedom. But, here is where it gets good — your arm has seven degrees of freedom — three in the shoulder, one in the elbow and three in the wrist. Once again, nature creates a model for a robot, in this case a stainless-steel robotic arm, based on the degrees of freedom of the human arm.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries has created the world’s first stainless-steel robot, a robotic arm actually, with seven degrees of freedom. This new robot has unprecedented levels of movement, due to those seven degrees, for a robot made of this material. The seven degrees translate into seven joints which give it precision and agility to get its work done. The robot will be used to automate experiments that use dangerous chemicals in the drug discovery and pharmaceutical fields.
Creating the robot with a stainless steel body allows it to work in a sterile environments and withstand sterilization with hydrogen peroxide gas. Kawasaki plans to introduce the robotic arm to market in January 2014.