Nov 9, 2011
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3D printed spiderbot designed to save lives

When choosing a form of locomotion for their robotic creations, roboticists often draw on nature to inspire alternatives to the tried and  tested tank like tracks or wheels.  This is exactly where the team at the Fraunhofer institute have turned in the creation of their new eight-legged robot.

Agile and purposeful, the Spider-Bot can transverse hazardous environments and unstable ground. Like its biological counterpart, it keeps four of its eight legs on the ground at any one time, while the remaining four legs turn and ready themselves for the next step ensuring stability.  Despite lacking muscles to stretch their long extremities, a number of spiders can jump, using built up body pressure to force fluid into their limbs to extend them and this principal has been applied to the Spider-Bot through elastic drive bellows that operate pneumatically to bend and extend its artificial limbs.

3D printed spiderbot to assist in search and rescue missions

3D printed spider-bot to assist in search and rescue missions

Despite combining rigid and elastic shapes in a single component the spider-bot has been produced at low cost and with just a few production steps, thanks to the help of Selective Laser Sintering, the process by which thin layers of a fine polyamide powder are applied one at a time in thin layers and melted in place with the aid of a laser beam. The use of SLS allows for complex geometries, inner structures and lightweight components to be produced while keeping the costs and development times of the Spider-Bot low. The lightweight polyamide powder also ensures the end-product is lightweight.

With the Spider-Bot body capable of carrying various measuring devices and sensors it is anticipated that future applications will include an exploratory tool in environments considered too hazardous for humans, or too difficult to get to.

A prototype model of the robot will be on display at Euro Mold 2011  (Frankfurt) later this month.

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