Four Furtwangen University (HFU) students have taken 3rd prize in a nationwide microsystems competition with a robot-supported system to pluck eyebrows. They recently presented their project at the Electronica trade fair in Munich. The jury found the project extremely innovative and pointed out that nothing similar has yet been developed. The students have now qualified for the international "iCan" competition which will take place in Beijing in August 2017.
Derek Orbaugh from Guatemala, Reem AlGaifi from Yemen, and Uma Muthia and Yuvaray Murugesan from India are all currently taking a Master's in Smart Systems at HFU. The study programme, which is taught in English, brought the students from around the world to Furtwangen in the Black Forest.
Microsystems are used everywhere where sensors and electronics work together. By using microsystems products become smaller and simpler, as well as more flexible, more intelligent and more effective. The "Automatic eyebrow plucking system with a robot arm" which the 4 students developed for the competition was a huge challenge, as the plucking of eyebrows is a complex activity which demands a high level of skill even from humans. All the complex steps in the process had to be converted into data for the robot arm. Reem AlGaifi, one of the members of the winning team said, "I hope that our project will one day be launched on the market. It was a completely new experience for us to take part in a trade fair and have so many visitors on our stand asking questions about our project. It was super. The trip to China is a great opportunity and a lot of work - but I really think it will be worth it."
From idea to reality
To get a robot arm to pluck eyebrows requires several steps. First a camera has to take a picture of the person's skin colour. The location of the eyebrows is defined with the help of an image processing programme: anywhere above the eye where there is no naked skin. Once the desired eyebrow shape has been selected, the system measures the angle between eye and nose to define the best starting and finishing point of the eyebrows. And then the actual plucking begins. To remove the hairs, the robot arm uses a twisted thread, the so-called threading method, to remove the hairs. A sensor is used to measure the distance between the head and the robot arm to keep it constant, while motors swivel the robot arm. The students wrote all the necessary programmes for the device themselves. The students are supervised by Professor Dr. Ulrich Mescheder. The Sparkasse Schwarzwald-Baar and Kaba, an access and data systems firm in Schwenningen supported the project as sponsors.
The COSIMA (Competition of Students in Microsystems Applications) competition is open for all universities in Germany and run by the Association of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Information Technology (VDE) supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The aim of the annual competition is to develop microsystems for everyday use.