Last week was the IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in Anchorage, Alaska. One of the most interesting robots was a simple -- and fast -- bot designed to climb easily through tubes.
This small robot, created at Carnegie Mellon's Biorobotics lab and the Manipulation lab, uses vibration to help it move quickly up tubes. IEEE Specturm reports on how the robot works:
The result is this little device. It's simple motor turns an unbalanced mass at a uniform velocity. As the mass swings around, it causes the robot to bounce back and forth between the tube walls. Two rubber o-rings let the researches specify the exact contact points and increase friction with the walls.
Instead of using bristles or fibers, and vibration that moves the robot in a low-friction direction, the o-rings provide a little more control for the robot's operators. And, the design employed by Carnegie Mellon also overcomes another design flaw common to tube climbing robots of the past: Difficulty getting out of the tube. Because of the way robots designed with bristles and fibers use the lowest-friction direction to climb the tube, operators have to work against maximum friction to remove the bot. With the o-ring design, this is no longer an issue.
In addition to easier removal, the Carnegie Mellon bot also features a payload capacity of five times its weight. Depending on the size of the tube, this robot can move up to 20 body-lengths per second. The versatility of this robot could lead to a number of different applications, especially for those that require that quick navigation of 3D tubes.
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More information: Josh Romero, "Simple Vibrating Bot Climbs Tubes With Ease," IEEE Spectrum (May 7, 2010). Available online: spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/medical-robots/tube-climbing-robot .