Robot Beetles | Bricklaying Robots | Morphing Metal Robots

Hi there, and welcome to my weekly Robot Update. This is where I do a round up of what is going on in the Robot news around the world, so please stay tuned.

Hi Guys, I’m Philip English from robophil.com, and welcome to the Robot Weekly update number 31.

Robot Beetles

It might sound like the stuff of nightmares but giant cyborg beetles could soon be winging their way to a town near you, now that scientists have proved they can wire up insects and control them remotely.

Several labs across the world are trying to design robot insect swarms because the creatures are good at getting into tiny spaces and could speed up finding earthquake survivors in rubble, carry out surveillance or eavesdrop on criminals or terrorists.

But engineers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and the University of California at Berkley, have gone a step further and created robots that they can control that move like insects.

Using electrodes and tiny electronic backpacks, the research team has shown that it is possible to create a living machine whose flight and walking gait can be wirelessly controlled. The biobots could replace drones.

The Robotic Bricklayer

For all the modern tools and heavy machinery found on construction sites these days, one aspect has remained a decidedly manual labor: bricklaying. Just as they did 6000 years ago when masonry was first developed, today’s bricklayers still perform their backbreaking work almost exclusively by hand. But thanks to Australian engineer, Mark Pivac, that could soon change. Pivac has developed what he claims is the world’s first fully automated bricklaying robot, dubbed Hadrian (yes, like the wall).

The system will first determine the location of every brick to be laid based on a 3D CAD design, then individually cuts and lays the bricks in sequence. Hadrian doesn’t even need to move during the laying process as its 28-foot long boom manipulator is dextrous enough to both set the brick and slather on mortar as well. It even leaves space for pipes and wiring.
The machine is reportedly capable of setting 1000 bricks an hour — roughly a home’s exterior frame every two days or about 150 homes a year — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Pivac hopes to further develop and then market Hadrian in Western Australia before expanding to the entire country and then the rest of the world.

Morphing metal shapes future of soft robotics

A team of engineers from Cornell University, led by Professor Rob Shepherd, have created a hybrid material that they say could enable robots or vehicles to change shape to carry out specific tasks.

The material is said to combine a soft alloy called Field’s metal with a porous silicone foam. In addition to its low melting point of 62°C, Field’s metal was chosen because, unlike similar alloys, it contains no lead. The combination of stiff metal and soft foam means it can be stiff when called for, and elastic when a change of shape is required. The material is also claimed to be able to self-heal following damage.

To make the material the elastomer foam is dipped into the molten metal, then placed in a vacuum so that the air in the foam’s pores is removed and replaced by the alloy. The foam had pore sizes of about 2mm; that can be tuned to create a stiffer or a more flexible material.

In testing of its strength and elasticity, the material is said to have shown an ability to deform when heated above 62°C, regain rigidity when cooled, then return to its original shape and strength when reheated.

That’s it guys, for a weekly world Robot News, I am your host Philip English

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