Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA are developing a mobile spider robot that will bring a new type of aid in disasters and hazardous events. The spider can locate people in hard to reach areas and report back to emergency response teams with information about the surrounding area’s safety. The team is also breaking new ground by swapping out conventional mechanical engineering production practices for 3D printing technology, making the eight-legged lifesavers cheap and easy to produce.
After months of studying real life arachnids, the scientists created a robot that can not only maneuver through difficult terrain, but also send back data on the environmental conditions of its surroundings. Armed with a camera, measuring equipment, and sensors, it can relay images of unreachable areas, as well as report on hazardous or poisonous spots to avoid. Similar to a real spider, the robot keeps four legs on the ground at all times while the others bend and move to explore further. Some models can even jump!
The super lightweight mobile robot is produced by a 3D printer layering thin sheets of polyamide powder one at a time and melting them together with lasers. The plastic printing is not only cost effective, but also super efficient, with the capability to print one or many spider legs at once. The modular design can be assembled quickly and easily with the least amount of materials. The robot legs can also be swapped out if broken or if different sizes or styles are needed.
The prototype spider model can be seen at the EuroMold 2011 trade fair in Frankfurt from November 29th to December 2nd.