David Zarrouk of Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev has developed a robot that can move forward and backward by producing a continuously advancing wave.
The design of the Single-Actuator Wave (SAW) robot features a single motor that rotates a rigid helix--the robot's spine--embedded inside a series of rigid three-dimensionally-printed plastic links that are flexible in one dimension, similar to a bicycle chain.
Zarrouk notes as the helix rotates, the links move vertically up and down while also rotating as they flex. He says where they contact the ground, the links push off as they rotate, propelling the robot forward.
The largest version has a top speed of 57 cm per second, or 5.6 wavelengths per second.
Zarrouk says the current iteration is very simple to build, lightweight, fast, efficient, rugged, and easy to scale both up and down.
The biggest challenge going forward will be to develop a way to change the pitch and amplitude of the wave on the fly, which would enable the robot to adapt to different terrain and climb more effectively through pipes, according to Zarrouk. He also envisions a miniature version that could locomote inside the intestines for filming and taking biopsies.
From IEEE Spectrum
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