Roboticists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Modlab have built a robot that can build and repair other robots – and even itself – using modular parts and spray-on foam.
The Foambot consists of a basic wheeled cart, along with several jointed modules. The Foambot sprays these with the self-hardening insulating foam to connect them up.
The actuators and microcontrollers that make up the robot are pre-assembled in clusters, each with a magnetic attachment face on the end. Attached to these are interface plates made of foam-core with 5cm bolts sticking out.
A nylon sheet protects the actuators from the mess while the bolts are embedded in the foam.
The aim, says the bot’s developers, is to create a robot that can deal with unknown circmstances – disaster recovery, intelligence gathering, troop support, planetary exploration and the like.
“Modular robots aim to address this requirement by having many modules from a small set of module types, that can be rearranged into a robot morphology to accomplish the desired task,” they say.
Using foam is a particularly cheap and efficient way of doing this, they say.
The bot can take on various jobs, says the team, such as removing sharp hazards after encapsulating them with foam, or jamming windows and doors.
The team’s used Foambot to build a snake and a quadruped – check out the video below.