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Learning to Walk for the Sake of Science
Humanoid research robot Myon unveiled for the first time.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Jul 26, 2010

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Humboldt University, Frackenpohl Poulheim and Bayer MaterialScience team up to produce Myon, a humanoid robot covered by advanced polycarbonate materials that create an attractive appearance and protect electronic systems.



“Myon” is the first humanoid robot of its kind in the world whose body parts can be completely removed and reattached while still retaining full functionality. Unveiled to the public for the first time at the International Design Festival DMY and the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study Berlin), the research robot has generated a great deal of interest. This small miracle of technology is the result of close cooperation between the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory (NRL) at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Cologne-based design studio Frackenpohl Poulheim and Bayer MaterialScience AG. The polycarbonate Makrolon® from Bayer MaterialScience proved to be the ideal material for designing the outer shell that gives the robot its esthetic appearance while also protecting the sensitive electronics inside.

One of the objectives in developing robots is for them to interact with humans. “That’s why we wanted Myon to project a friendly, positive persona even though it’s obviously not actually a person,” explains André Poulheim, one of Myon’s designers. “Otherwise robots can seem a bit threatening if, say, their shoulders are made too broad.” Standing at 1.25 meters, Myon is around the same size as an eight-year-old child.

As part of the European research project ALEAR (Artificial Language Evolution on Autonomous Robots), Dr. Manfred Hild and his team at the NRL are examining the way autonomous robots move. Precise analysis of typical human movements, like walking, reveals that these are extremely complex processes that also depend on factors such as the build of the individual. In this respect, Myon’s six autonomous body parts and modular design are a major benefit, as these movements can initially be developed on individual limbs – a leg, for example – and gradually extended to define the robot’s overall behavior. Ultimately, although the arms and legs can be moved independently, they also have to be capable of working together.

“The robot’s esthetic design and degree of mobility presented particular challenges when it came to selecting materials. The material must not impede the overall functionality and it must be suitable for the creation of specific shapes,” says Dr. Lorenz Kramer, who oversees the project and is responsible for the Robotics section at Bayer MaterialScience. During tests, the glass-fiber reinforced, exceptionally stiff and flame retardant polycarbonate Makrolon 9425, and the glossy, transparent Makrolon ET3113 proved the right materials for the job.

During the coextrusion process, melts of the same or different plastics are combined before they exit the profile die, hardening to a compound in the calender. “This creates an inseparable multilayer composite sheet that exhibits the combined properties of both grades,” explains Udo Ahlborn, a polycarbonates expert at Bayer MaterialScience. In the second step, customized composite sheets are vacuum formed to give them their final shape. “The shells manufactured using this method look and feel smooth but are nonetheless extremely robust,” continues Ahlborn. As a result, the functionality of the robot ought to remain completely intact, even after a fall.

This project is just one example of the scouting activities currently being undertaken in the Robotics section. In this way, Bayer MaterialScience is picking up on the megatrends and requirements of the future and transforming them into market-ready products. “One of the main drivers behind developments in the field of humanoid robots is demographic change, particularly the trend towards rapidly aging populations that is evident in many countries worldwide,” adds Kramer. “Mobile service robots can, for example, be used to look after the elderly in hospitals and care homes. There are already examples of this in Japan.” Other key areas are the interaction between humans and artificial intelligence, and ongoing developments in the field of industrial automation.

Bayer MaterialScience also plans to exhibit this innovation at K 2010 in Düsseldorf from October 27 to November 3, 2010.

About Bayer MaterialScience
With 2009 sales of EUR 7.5 billion, Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and sports and leisure industries. Bayer MaterialScience has 30 production sites around the globe and employed approximately 14,300 people at the end of 2009. Bayer MaterialScience is a Bayer Group company.

Find more information at http://www.bayermaterialscience.com, http://www.frackenpohl-poulheim.de, http://www.neurorobotik.de, http://www.wiko-berlin.de/index.php?id=81&type=98 and http://www.dmy-berlin.com.

Contact
Bayer MaterialScience AG
Dr. Frank Rothbarth
P:  +49 214 30-25363
E:  mailto:frank.rothbarth@bayermaterialscience.com


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