Spiders are some of nature’s best designers and most skilled architects. So it’s no surprise that the latest developments in 3D-printing and construction are looking to them for inspiration.
These 3D-printing robots – known as SiSpis or Siemens Spiders – have been designed by Siemens researchers at their lab in Princeton, New Jersey. They’re equipped with cameras and laser scanners to understand their surroundings. They then scuttle around, printing layers of a plastic-like substance made from cornstarch and sugarcane, much like the mechanism of a conventional 3D printer but with much more precision and flexibility.
The spiders are even able to work together in teams. Each spider is capable of creating a small and separate piece of the work. Using algorithms and computer technology, they are able to plan and organize the collaboration.
All the parts of the Siemens spiders were developed for this project except for the motors and wires. Siemens
Not only that, but they can also work in shifts. As Siemens explain on their website: “When its batteries are low after about two hours, a spider will find its way back to a charging station, but not without first transmitting its data to another spider that has just been charged, thus allowing the second spider to pick up exactly where the first one left off.”
At the moment, the robots are only able to create simple shapes. But the team say this is just the beginning. Eventually, when machine learning technology catches up with their ambitions, the spiders will become fully autonomous and will be able to plan their work without any human intervention.
More work is needed, but the team say the future of construction and manufacturing lies in these mobile and autonomous robots. The researchers expect these robots will become “a new species of industrial worker,” capable of constructing large and complex products like planes, cars, and ships.
“Once the technology becomes mature, it could be applied to almost anything,” said project leader Hasan Sinan Banks.
[H/T: Popular Science]