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Helping Hinz and Kunz? – Analysing and conserving two robotic prototypes from the Deutsches Museum in Munich


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Sawitzki, Julia 
Pamplona, Marisa 
Dittmann, Frank 


In robotic research and the robots’ pre-production phase, the goal is to develop a functional robotic prototype, at least in the short term. As an initial model for subsequent research or production, mainly built in research facilities, laboratories or workshops, the choice of materials is neither always fully thought through nor designed for long-term preservation. Since the materials used are rarely documented, it is very difficult to obtain information about them via the literature or other written sources. Consequently, the preservation of these prototypes and their technology is linked to mostly unknown materials, and is a challenge for collections and museums like the Deutsches Museum in Munich. An example of such a challenge is represented by the two robots ‘Hinz’ and ‘Kunz’ from 1963. Being the first cybernetic models in Europe, they were built to demonstrate learning processes in the human brain. The two prototypes mainly consist of metals and plastics, some of which show severe signs of degradation varying from embrittlement, yellowing and cracks to the migration of crystals. To investigate the material composition, the synthetic polymers were closely examined and analysed using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy with attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR). Based on the information about the material, tailored measures were taken to improve preservation of the robots, using a combination of conservation treatments and custom-made storage and mounting solutions. This case study demonstrates how complex objects like prototypes have special requirements and that they need to be researched to make sure they survive for future generations.



Plastics in Peril, Object conservation

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Plastics in Peril: Focus on conservation of polymeric materials in cultural heritage

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