Since there are a glut of audio-animatronic characters at any of Disney’s amusement parks, it’s logical that the company’s research division is working hard to find ways to make them more lifelike. Now, their researchers may have found an inexpensive solution to making artificial muscles by using conductive sewing thread that’s available at any fabric store.
Finding synthetic muscles have been a holy grail in robotics research for a very long time, as they allow robots to move more fluidly, faster, with much greater strength than any actuator or servo could, and more resemble human muscles. However, finding the materials that can continuously expand and contract without stretching out and weakening over time has been quite the difficult task. But it seems all Disney discovered is that store-bought materials work just fine…
The Disney Research team took conductive sewing thread, twisted repeatedly until it forms thicker strands of coils — like a very crude guitar string — heated and cooled the strands with the three cooling fans on the forearm, and the cables contract and expand just like a human muscle, which in turns pulls the fingers causing the artificial hand to close. In fact, this creation generated controlled forces in under 30 milliseconds, which OUTPERFORMS what human muscles can do.
***Insert Terminator/SkyNet joke here…..***
[Thanks Disney Research]