Wave robot able to crawl swim and climb with single motor

A robot utilising wave-like movements is capable of traversing different terrains and swimming using just one motor.

The ‘Single Actuator Wave-like robot’ (SAW), developed by engineers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, is created from 3D-printed parts and moves forward or backward in a wave-like motion.

SAW can climb over obstacles or crawl through unstable terrain like sand, grass and gravel, reaching a top speed of 57 centimetres per second which is five times faster than similar robots the developers claim.

Its minimalistic mechanical design uses only a single motor with no internal straight spine.

"Researchers all over the world have been trying to create a wave movement for 90 years," said Dr. David Zarrouk, who worked on the project.

"We succeeded by finding a simple, unique solution that enables the robot to be built in different sizes for different purposes.

“For example, it can be scaled up for search and rescue and maintenance or miniaturized to a diameter of one centimetre or less to travel within the human body for medical purposes, such as imaging and biopsies of the digestive system."

The robot's wave movement enables it to climb through tunnels at a rate of eight centimetres per second when touching both sides. A waterproof version can swim at six centimetres per second.

By adding spiny traction enhancers to each link, the team was also able to increase the robots movement speed by 13 per cent.

Zarrouk, who has been developing minimalistic robots for many years, said that SAW is easy to manufacture, strong, reliable and energy efficient, which enables long-distance travel.

"The robot requires barely any maintenance, which is very unusual for an almost completely 3D-printed prototype that's this dynamic," Zarrouk says.

"I believe it will be useful for traveling through the intestine for imaging and biopsies and for infiltrating problematic, complex security areas, such as tunnels, destroyed buildings and pipes."

The Edinburgh University startup Robotical unveiled smart, programmable walking robots in June that were also made of 3D-printable parts. 

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