GRASP Labs coolest robot yet

Mark YimAsa Whitney, a professor of mechanical engineering, has seen any number of innovative robots that walk, fly, hop, roll, and otherwise keep themselves informed GRASP Labwhere he serves as Ruzena Bajcsy director. But the lab's newest creation is literally the coolest yet: it's made of ice.

ModLabYim's own group in the GRASP Lab focuses on modular robotic systems. These robots can be reconfigured on the fly to adapt to new environments or tasks. Some are made up of identical units that can connect in different ways, e.g. B. when flying ModQuads or roll SMORES EP, but what if these units themselves are not suitable for a particular job?

IceBot's structural components are made from ice that can be cut and shaped to measure in remote environments.

Cooperation with Yim, PhD student and ModLab member Devin Carroll recently proposed an innovative solution: making these units from blocks of ice. Such a robot could be deployed in Antarctica or even on an icy alien planet, two places where custom parts or repairs would be particularly difficult to come by.

In a paper presented at the IEEE / RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Devin Carroll and Mark Yim from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvaniastress in Philadelphia that this is very preparatory work. They say they have only just begun exploring the idea of ​​an ice robot. Obviously you won't be able to make actuators, batteries, or any other electronic thing out of ice, and ice will never be as efficient as a structural material like titanium or carbon fiber or whatever. But ice can be found in many different places, and it's pretty unique in how it can be modified – heat can be used to cut and shape it, and also glue it to yourself.

The IROS paper deals with different ways of making robotic structural components from ice using additive and subtractive manufacturing processes with the aim of developing a concept for robots that can exhibit "self-reconfiguration, self-replication and self-repair". The assumption is that the robot would work in an environment with ice everywhere, where the ambient temperature is cold enough that the ice remains stable, and ideally also cold enough that the heat generated by the robot does not result in an uncomfortable amount of self-melting or an even more uncomfortable amount of self-shorting. Between molding, 3D printing and CNC machining, it turns out that cutting the ice with a drill is the most energy efficient and effective method. Ideally, however, you want to find a way that you can use it to manage the sewage and ice chips that are created so they don't re-freeze in a place you don't want. Of course, sometimes refreezing is exactly what you want, as that is how you place actuators, for example, and attach one part to another.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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