Robot Spiders To The Rescue

3–D printing has the ability to build up complex units with the moving parts built-in. In other words, a machine can be printed without subsequent assembly. Alternatively, working components can be printed and then assembled into a final unit, thus providing more flexibility in the final device. The latest fun thing to be produced this way is a spider robot that can scuttle into places where sensible people would avoid (1). So hazardous toxic areas, or small spaces in collapsed buildings can be explored. Soon we’ll hear the call “send in the spiders” when the disaster response team arrives.

In a blog by Molly Cotter posted Inhabitat there are some photographs of these little 8 legged monsters fresh off the printer (2). They are printed from polyamide and are very light. Perhaps the most notable thing about these robots is that they're very cheap to produce. Cheap means disposable, so if they do the job there is no need to recover them and try to clean them up from hazardous chemicals for example.

The spider body makes the platform on which various sensors may be mounted. Small microphones, sensors or cameras can be carried into inaccessible places by the spider bots. The Institute reports that some of them can jump around (1). Currently they are being produced at the Fraunhofer Institute. I expect that Halloween there can get pretty exciting with herds of these ghostly white spider bots scurrying around the corridors looking for trouble.

Some engineers have built small robots that can climb vertical surfaces like geckos. Perhaps that's the next step for the Fraunhofer guys with their spiders. So how do they scuttle and jump? By hydraulics. Fluid pumped into the legs extends them and when allowed to flow back the springy legs recoil.


Leave a Reply