Spiderman robot spins draglines to cross open space (w/ video)

Jan 31, 2014 by Lisa Zyga feature
Spider-inspired robots carrying payloads descend on their draglines. Credit: Wang, et al. ©2014 IOP Publishing Ltd

(Phys.org) —Inspired by spiders' abilities to produce draglines and use them to move across open space, researchers have designed and built a robot that can do the same. Similar to Spiderman shooting a dragline from his wrist, the robot produces a sticky plastic thread that it attaches to a surface, such as a wall or tree branch. Then the robot descends the dragline, while simultaneously continuing to produce as much line as needed. The mechanism could enable robots to move from any solid surface into open space without the need for flying.

The researchers, Liyu Wang, Utku Culha, and Fumiya Iida, at the Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, have published a paper on the spider-inspired robot in a recent issue of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

"The dragline-forming robot is interesting because it implements a new concept: that a robot may accomplish a task by building structures to assist it," Wang told Phys.org. "It is advantageous because the robot can flexibly vary the structure (in this case, the thickness of the dragline) according to environments or tasks that cannot be anticipated."

At first glance, the robot doesn't look much like a spider, since it is about 3 times larger and made of an assortment of metal, wires, and onboard batteries. The source of its dragline material is a stick of thermoplastic adhesive (TPA), which functions similarly to a glue stick in a hot glue gun. When the robot is ready to produce a dragline, the solid TPA stick is pushed through a heating cavity and out of a nozzle. Two wheels located just beyond the nozzle help elongate and guide the dragline in the desired direction. The robot can form draglines with a thickness varying from 1 to 5 mm.

Since the hot TPA dragline is sticky, it can adhere to the from where the robot starts its journey into . Once the dragline is stuck on the surface, the robot can begin descending down the dragline while producing more of it, mimicking the way that spiders fall down their draglines in a controlled way. While spiders use a fourth pair of legs to move down their draglines, the robot relies on its two wheels for locomotion down the dragline.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Demonstration of the dragline-forming robot. Credit: Wang, et al.

In tests, the robot could form and move along its dragline at an average descending speed of 5 cm/min. The robot demonstrated dragline-assisted locomotion for distances of up to 82 cm, although there is no limitation to traveling distance unless the dragline material is used up. The researchers note that the TPA dragline material is potentially reusable, although this ability would require additional onboard mechanisms to retrieve and reuse the material.

In the future, the researchers plan to extend the robot's abilities to enable it to form multiple draglines in both vertical and horizontal directions, eventually forming grids that partially mimic a real spider web. In order to form dragline grids, the robot would need gecko-inspired adhesive legs instead of wheels so that it could easily move between draglines and solid surfaces.

Robots that form their own draglines for locomotion could have a wide variety of applications, particularly in unanticipated environments such as hazard removal and extraterrestrial exploration, among other uses. Although there are other mechanisms that allow robots to cross open space, such as flying or using existing cables, these options have their own sets of challenges such as the payload factor. In some situations, a spider-inspired may offer a less complex and more robust alternative.

Explore further: Robot's sticky feet could aid space missions (w/ Video)

More information: Liyu Wang, et al. "A dragline-forming mobile robot inspired by spiders." Bioinspir. Biomim. 9 (2014) 016006 (10pp). DOI: 10.1088/1748-3182/9/1/016006

Related Stories

DALER project shows a walking flying robot (w/ Video)

Aug 04, 2013

(Phys.org) —At the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems we are developing a novel flying platform which has the ability to move on the ground by using its wings only. Using the wings as whegs to move on rough ...

NASA to add legs to giant robonaut aboard the ISS

Nov 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA has announced its intention to add legs to the Robonaut 2 (R2) robot currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), sometime next year. The move is part of a 50 year project (currently in year 17) ...

Untangling the mysteries of spider silk

May 03, 2012

Spiders weave a web even more tangled than originally thought – at least on the nanoscale level, according to a new study performed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

15 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

21 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

21 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

21 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

22 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bigbenhoward
1 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2014
Gonna be a real pain in the ass cleaning up after them if the lines don't degrade.
Expiorer
not rated yet Feb 01, 2014
It moes even better than a real spider.
Such a grace.

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.