‘Spider-inspired’ mobile robot goes where humans can’t

Drawing inspiration from spider’s legs, researchers have designed a mobile robot that can explore terrain that is beyond human reach.

Spiders are very agile, and some can even jump. They owe this capability to their hydraulically operated limbs.

The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA adopted the principle that moves spider legs to design the lightweight mobile robot using a 3-D printing process.

“We took this mobility principle and applied it to our bionic, computer-controlled lightweight robot. Its eight legs and body are also fitted with elastic drive bellows that operate pneumatically to bend and extend its artificial limbs,“ explained Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Becker, a scientist at IPA.

Enviably agile and purposeful, the mobile robot makes its way through grounds rendered off-limits to humans as the result of a chemical accident.

Depressions, ruts and other obstacles are no match for this eight-legged high-tech journeyman.

As a real spider would, it keeps four legs on the ground at all times while the other four turn and ready themselves for the next step.

Even in its appearance, this artificial articulate creature resembles an octopod.

This high-tech assistant is still a prototype, but future plans envision its use as an exploratory tool in environments that are too hazardous for humans, or too difficult to get to.

After natural catastrophes and industrial or reactor accidents, or in fire department sorties, it can help responders, for instance by broadcasting live images or tracking down hazards or leaking gas.

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