Truss-crawling robots build their own structure to climb on

Machine metabolism

In an exploration of how robots can mimic biological systems and processes, this project from the Cornell Creative Machines Lab is showing some real promise across a range of industries.

The idea behind the Machine Metabolism robotic system is based on a a fairly straightforward premise:

Biological organisms can metabolize: break down nutrients into basic building blocks and then use those building blocks to create new things. What if we could reproduce this kind of process in a robotic system?

Jeremy Blum, Franz Nigl, and Shuguang Li have come up with an ingenious system of 3D printed trusses and gears, that the robot interacts with to manipulate a structure. The robot itself is built from laser cut acrylic and 3D printed components, with a healthy dose of electronic wizardry driving the whole thing.

A video overview of Machine Metabolism version 3 follows after the break.  

So where is this all heading? There has been talk of robots that are able to reuse and recycle modular elements, repair themselves if damaged, and even respond to environmental stimuli to autonomously design functional outcomes. Think of disaster recovery, design engineering and that old favourite – space exploration.

It may still be early days for these robotic climbers, but the potential hinted at by this project is indeed exciting.

Machine Metabolism

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