Hexapod robots, also referred to as simply “hexapods” or “Stewart platforms,” are a type of parallel kinematic device with six degrees of freedom. You might recognize hexapod robots as the technology behind motion simulators and vibration isolation mechanisms, where their six degrees of freedom (X, Y, Z, roll, pitch, and yaw) allow them to accurately simulate road conditions or stabilize images for cameras and video equipment.
Check out this video, which shows how a hexapod robot was used to test and refine the Google Pixel 2 camera’s image stabilization algorithms. In addition to providing motion in six axes, the hexapod robot has a high rigidity, so it can achieve very accurate motion simulation, without additional motion or vibration from the hexapod itself.
The basic design of a hexapod robot consists of six independently-controlled actuators, or “legs,” that connect a stationary platform with a parallel, moving platform. The actuators can be driven by ball screws, roller screws, pneumatic cylinders, linear motors, or even piezo motors or voice coil actuators for the smallest, most precise movements. One of the key benefits of a hexapod robot is that the moving platform is programmed to rotate around a user-defined pivot point that can be located anywhere in space.
This flexibility in design means hexapod robots can be large enough to manipulate a car body or small enough to position a probing head for a silicon wafer. In fact, hexapod robots are used in a wide range of industries and applications — some of which you might not expect for a device that was originally developed for tire testing machines and flight simulators. Here are a few examples…