Robot mannequin test protective suits

Paul Boughton

A robotic mannequin has been recently developed by a British engineering company, i-bodi Technology, a subsidiary of Crawley Creatures Ltd, to help the UK’s Ministry of Defence test chemical and biological (CB) protective suits and equipment for its armed forces.

The ‘Porton Man’ uses state-of-the-art technology to simulate the full leg, arm and head movements of a human, as well as breathing. This allows tests of how protective clothing stands up to such action without exposing the wearer to the dangerous substances.

To ensure human-like movement of the ‘Porton Man’, i-bodi turned to leading plastic bearings, energy chains and cabling specialist igus for advice. Jez Gibson-Harris, CEO, i-bodi Technology said: "Our brief was to produce a light-weight robotic mannequin that had a wide range of movement, fitted the anthropometric data and was easy to handle. Of course there were a number of challenges associated with this, the main aims were to ensure we used products that were lightweight and could be seamlessly integrated into the mannequin to ensure fluid movement.”

‘Porton Man’ is fitted with igus iglidur bearings on all rotating shafts, which enables its movements to be more fluid and friction-free, and above all with no maintenance or lubrication required. The bearings used on the robot are iglidur Z and iglidur X - both feature excellent wear resistance, even with high loads, and are suitable for high temperature and environmental resistance.

“We specified these bearings for use in the robot mannequin because they are maintenance- and corrosion-free that are self-lubricating and weigh seven times less than metallic rolled bearings and of course also offer excellent chemical resistance, a perfect fit for an application like this,” says Rob Dumayne, bearing product director at igus.

igus also provided the company with a ‘reverse bending radius’ (RBR), energy chain solution for the mounting platform for the mannequin. Justin Leonard, energy chain systems director at igus says: “This solution was used to guide and protect cables for the rotary motion of the mannequin; this allowed the system to be rotated with no danger to the sensitive connections needed for the tests.” 

igus designed, supplied and installed a full custom system as well as the chainflex cables supplying the power and data.

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