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A robotic arm is being developed that can lift and transport objects without touching them.

A good sound! Scientists develop a robotic arm that can lift and transport objects without touching them with ultrasonic levitation

  • Two sets of speakers that point to each other create a sonic “pressure field”
  • Objects placed within this pressure field are held in place and appear to be floating
  • Researchers say ultrasonic robots could replace traditional rubber tweezers

Scientists are developing a robotic arm that can lift and transport objects without touching them by ultrasonic levitation.

ETH Zurich researchers used a series of small speakers that emit sound at closely controlled frequencies and volumes to “grab” an object.

According to researcher Marcel Shuck, the sound waves of the speakers create a pressure field that holds an object up, a kind of “acoustic levitation.”

Dr. Shuck says that the acoustic clamp will be ideal for delicate tasks such as assembling watches or microchips, where any damage caused by touch marks would cost money.

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The speakers are contained within two 3D printed hemispheres: the volume and frequency of each speaker can be controlled using specially programmed software

The speakers are contained within two 3D printed hemispheres: the volume and frequency of each speaker can be controlled using specially programmed software

The sound waves used to levitate an object can also move it by having audio coming from multiple directions, the team says.

A conventional robotic clamp is covered with soft, rubber-like materials that can damage fragile objects and contaminate delicate items, Shuck said.

The effect behind the acoustic clamp has existed for more than 80 years and was first used on space travel: it involves creating a pressure field from ultrasonic waves that humans cannot see or hear.

Pressure points are created as sound waves overlap each other, and small objects can get trapped inside these points.

As a result, they seem to float freely in the air, in an acoustic trap, the team said.

It is currently in the prototype stage and involves multiple small speakers installed within two semi-spheres pointing towards each other to create the pressure field.

Shuck and his team created software that allows them to control the speakers to adjust sound pressure points and move objects.

At the moment it is a fairly static process, but the objective is to be able to change position in real time without the object falling to the ground.

At the moment, researchers can move several small objects, but they have to use the software to adjust the clamp to the shape of the object.

The robot arm transports the clamp and the object to an objective destination.

Pressure points are created as sound waves overlap each other, and small objects can get trapped inside these points.

Pressure points are created as sound waves overlap each other, and small objects can get trapped inside these points.

Pressure points are created as sound waves overlap each other, and small objects can get trapped inside these points.

The acoustic clamp eliminates the need for an extensive set of expensive high-precision clamps, according to Shuck and his team.

He said the robot that carries the caliper doesn’t even need to be particularly precise.

The exact positioning of the retained object is determined by the acoustic waves controlled by the software, not by the robot arm.

Your next stage is to work with several industries to discover exactly what they would expect from an acoustic clamp.

Innovation is likely to be of interest to the watch industry, where high precision micromechanics is essential for the handling of expensive tiny components.

“The cogwheels, for example, are first coated with lubricant, and then the thickness of this layer of lubricant is measured,” Shuck said.

‘Even the slightest touch could damage the thin film of lubricant.’

What is a sonic attack?

Sonic attacks fall into two categories: those that involve audible frequencies and those that are ultrasonic and therefore inaudible.

Audible frequencies include things like playing very loud music for people undergoing interrogation.

Infrasonic weapons such as the long-range acoustic device (LRAD) are based on loud, low-frequency sounds (infrasound) and are inaudible.

These are produced by bulky units that are used for things like crowd control and high potency can cause symptoms such as nausea.

Ultrasonic (high frequency) bursts cannot be felt or heard either. This is what could have been used against US diplomats in Cuba in September 2017.

The embassy workers reported hearing loss, dizziness, speech problems, cognitive problems and other medical symptoms that seemed to come from a “sonic attack” in their homes or hotel rooms.

Some Canadian embassy workers also reported that they felt sick from an acute noise.

“The extent of these biological effects depends on how ultrasound reaches the person who is being” attacked, “according to Dr. Ian McLoughlin, a professor of computer science at the University of Kent.

Dr. McLoughlin says that the case of US diplomats is unlikely to be a deliberate attack; instead, these injuries are probably the side effects of intrusive surveillance.

“Any sound becomes less powerful the farther it is from a speaker, but ultrasound loses power much faster with distance than audible sounds,” he said, writing for the Conversation.

“A single ultrasonic emitter (speaker) would have difficulty generating enough energy to affect someone halfway in a typical room.”

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