A robotic manipulator is a multi-function robot system comprised of rotational (‘revolute’) joints and linear/telescopic (‘prismatic’) joints which enable an end-effector (a hand, jaws, a camera, or other sensor) to be moved to a specific position and orientation. These jointed segments loosely resemble a human arm with varying range of motion and dexterity. The end-effector is interchangeable, offering diverse solutions to meet specific task requirements and vary in form and function from claws to cutters.

Which ROV Manipulator arm is best?

Robotic manipulators vary in size, function and degrees of freedom, making different configurations appropriate for different missions. The Reach Alpha range (for smaller platforms) is suitable for Portable Class ROVs, while the Reach Bravo (for larger platforms) is suitable for Inspection Class ROVs.

The capacity (relating to dexterity and weight lift) of the manipulator arm depends on the number of degrees of freedom. A ‘Degree of Freedom’ (DoF) is an independent joint that provides freedom of movement for the robotic manipulator. Every axis a joint can rotate around or extend is gives the manipulator an additional ‘degree of freedom’.  Manipulators often come with a set of interchangeable grippers (also known as a jaws) at the end of the robotic arm. A prismatic actuator (a fancy word for an actuator that only operates along a single axis) opens and closes the jaws. Because the prismatic actuator only moves linearly to open and close the jaws it is not included in the degrees of freedom.

With Reach Robotics manipulators, the number after the model name refers to the functions of the arm. For example, the Reach Alpha 5 has five functions; four degrees of freedom in the joints plus the linear end-effector function.

Hydraulic vs Electric Manipulator Arms

Reach Robotics manipulator arms are all-electric. As compared to hydraulic arms, electric manipulators are smaller, lighter and have higher accuracy allowing for more advanced functionality and precise control of the end-effector.

Uses for ROV Manipulator Arms

Manipulator arms can be used for a variety of subsea and on land tasks. Including but not limited to carrying out dexterous activities like attaching hooks, conducting advanced Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), collecting samples, cutting cables or ropes, wielding tools, turning control inputs, and much more. For more detail see: Top Uses for Underwater Manipulators. Manipulator arms are often used on unmanned ground vehicles, underwater ROVs, and other platforms that operate in harsh environments.

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