(Alert – If you don’t enjoy creepy crawlers this article might not be suitable for you)
Identified as insect inspired robots & intended to crawl inside your body on repair missions
Soft, flexible and shaped like spiders, these squishy devices under development are the recent result of a team of roboticists from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biolgically Inspired Engineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Boston University. A new fabrication process has enabled this amazing team of scientists to build machines on a millimeter-scale with micrometer-scale features. Here is a picture of the transparent spider bot modeled off the brilliant Australian peacock spider to demonstrate the breakthrough of their discovery.
“The idea of designing and fabricating a soft robot inspired by the peacock spider comes from the fact that this small insect embodies a large number of unsolved challenges in soft robotics,” Tommaso Ranzani, an assistant professor at Boston University and first author of the study, said. “Indeed it is less than a centimeter wide, has features down to the micron scale, a well defined three-dimensional structure, and a large number of independently controllable degrees of freedom in only a couple of centimeters width. In addition, it is characterized by beautiful color patterns. We saw here an opportunity to advance the manufacturing capabilities in small-scale soft robotics and to demonstrate the capabilities of our process.”
To create the robot, the team of roboticists stacked 12 layers of an elastic silicone to form legs, torso, and abdomen. They used processes like laser-micro-machining to get measurements precise. Another amazing process enables the spiderbot to flex a joint to move its legs and to raise its abdomen in imitation of the real Australian peacock spider. This is done by injecting microfluids into a network of hollow channels running from the spider’s abdomen to its legs.
MORPH: A new soft material microfabrication process from Wyss Institute on Vimeo. This video shows the real spider in action as well as the spiderbot performing similar movements. Researchers think their manufacturing process could someday lead to soft and dynamic microbots that would be able to perform delicate medical tasks inside the body or to go on search and rescue missions in areas too difficult or dangerous for human access.