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PROJECTS Robotics3D Printing

UC Berkeley Uses 3D Printing to Build an Insanely Fast Robotic Roach Capable of Going Nearly 5 m/s

DFRobot Jun 10 2015 281

While we’ve seen 3D printed robots in all shapes and sized and with a large variety in functions, most are just not very fast walkers. But if speed is what you’re after, you’ll be happy to learn about the latest exploits of Berkeley’s robotics department. Over the past few years they have built up a reputation of being extraordinary robots, and their latest partially 3D printed creation is definitely that. It’s called the X2-VelociRoACH, and it is capable of reaching a top speed of 4.9 m/s, so fast you easily lose track of it.

This insanely fast creation is being thoroughly explored in a recent article called ‘Running beyond the bio-inspired regime’ by Duncan W. Haldane and Ronald S. Fearing, which will also be presented at the ICRA 2015 in Seattle later this week. And for those of you looking for proof, just check out the clip below. Fast, or what?

In fact, the purpose of this robotic cockroach is to explore the maximum attainable speed of a legged robot, and they have certainly done that. While not technically the fastest robot ever made, it is without a doubt the fasted legged robot of its size. Capable of reaching stride frequencies of up to 45 Hz, this top speed seems to be simply what’s possible without actually breaking the robot during testing. ‘High-frequency running experiments with the robot shows that the power required to cycle its running appendages increase cubically with the stride rate. Our findings show that although it is possible to further increase the maximum velocity of a legged robot with the simple strategy of increasing stride frequency, considerations must be made for the energetic demands of high stride rates,’ the two designers write in their article.

In fact, this VelociRoACH’s legs are directly coupled to its motors, so speed is determined by how high you crank up the engine. While it can go a bit faster, the robot will begin to fall apart during running. And though you might not expect it, 3D printing technology is actually key to reaching these speeds in the first place. To get the most out of the engines, the designers resorted to 3D printed a number of key components to make them as robust as possible. ‘[Other methods] did not properly constrain the drive plate at high velocities so we employed bearings mounted in 3D printed plastic, which were connected to the crank with a shoulder bolt. We sought to enable the rapid fabrication of this robot, thus the majority of the transmission was 3D printed, including the gears,’ they write.

Unfortunately, 3D printed plastic was not strong enough to be used a drive shaft, so these parts were replaced with carbon-fiber components. The legs themselves are made fiberglass, with ripstop nylon being used for the flexible parts. This currently seems to be the optimal setup for avoiding breaking during running, though the scientists argue that there is no reason why higher speeds cannot be attained if they can discover new materials. Balance isn’t a problem either, as an aerodynamic stabilizer is used to keep it running straight.

Now you might wonder what the point is of an uncontrollable robot that just runs in a straight line, but two things are certain: the results are definitely impressive and it’s always good to know where your limits are.