Robot arm at MIT will weave its own web (w/ Video)

April 29, 2012 by Nancy Owano weblog

(Phys.org) -- The Mediated Matter Group from the MIT Media Lab is working on a robot that might one day spin its own webs. Project team members are training a robot to weave a web-like architecture, similar to the way a silkworm creates cocoons. The team seeks to train its robot to mimic nature—namely to weave a cocoon like structure. The robot is getting some programming help but eventually the researchers want to see it weaving autonomously, spinning its own web. Latest reports reveal a robot arm deploying yarn-like thread on prearranged hooks.

The knows the positions of all the hooks and pegs that surround it. With more work the goal is for the robot to sense its surroundings and build a custom structure.

Talking to the IDG News Service, Elizabeth Tsai, a research assistant at the Media Lab, said they are looking at "a manufacturing process that looks at its surroundings -- say branches or pegs -- that it can weave around." The design presently is preprogrammed. The team will switch weaving materials to a moist nylon substance that hardens as it dries, according to the plan.

The video will load shortly

The project also sheds some light on what the Mediated Matter agenda is all about. Their research interests suggest outcomes that may change how we think about architecture and manufacturing. The Mediated Matter Group defines itself as exploring how digital and fabrication technologies mediate between matter and environment to radically transform the design and construction of objects, buildings, and systems.

Related to the robotic arm, the group has an ongoing project, CNSILK, which stands for Computer Numerically Controlled Silk Cocoon Construction. This is described as "a novel approach to the design and fabrication of silk-based building skins by controlling the mechanical and physical properties of spatial structures inherent in their microstructures using multi-axes fabrication."

As for the , the team members talk about the robot in relation to the principles of “additive manufacturing.” This is a process where parts are created by successively melting layers of a material. Each layer is melted to the exact geometry defined by a 3D CAD model. Proponents say this is an approach with numerous benefits, and without manufacturing constraints, as it allows for building parts with complex geometries without tools and without waste material.

Though still in an early project stage, bloggers this week wasted no time thinking about what could come out of the attempt. Writing in Co.DESIGN, Mark Wilson imagined the potential for prefabricated structures: “Your house could ship to you in a flat-packed accordion lattice. You simply pitch the house like a tent, and an autonomous robot could come in and weave a flowing, organic structure from the slightest of frameworks with a level of artisan craftsmanship that no human team could duplicate.”

A post in the Geek Church suggested that construction workers, after making a building with scaffolding, would have robots fill in the rest. Another site offered the idea of a robot creating hammocks on demand.

Explore further: Warwick students take rescue robot to RoboCup Rescue Championship

Related Stories

Kondo Robot releases a hexapod robot kit (w/ video)

April 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Kondo Robot, a Japan-based robotics company known for selling robotics kits which often end up in robot-on-robot battles, announced the release of a new robot kit. The kit, named the KMR-M6 is a Hexapod Robot, ...

Finnish robotics firm develops trash recycling robot

April 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Finnish firm ZenRobotics has designed and built a robot that can sort through construction waste and pluck out recyclable material moving by on conveyer belt and then deposit it in an appropriate bin. ...

Robot assembles truss structures autonomously

February 28, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Like something straight out of "Star Wars," armies of robots could nimbly be crawling up towers and skyscrapers to make repairs in the not-so-distant future, so humans don't have to.

Recommended for you

Inferring urban travel patterns from cellphone data

August 29, 2016

In making decisions about infrastructure development and resource allocation, city planners rely on models of how people move through their cities, on foot, in cars, and on public transportation. Those models are largely ...

How machine learning can help with voice disorders

August 29, 2016

There's no human instinct more basic than speech, and yet, for many people, talking can be taxing. 1 in 14 working-age Americans suffer from voice disorders that are often associated with abnormal vocal behaviors - some of ...

Sponge creates steam using ambient sunlight

August 22, 2016

How do you boil water? Eschewing the traditional kettle and flame, MIT engineers have invented a bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device that soaks up natural sunlight and heats water to boiling temperatures, generating steam ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.