Robot engineers are always inspired by nature to improve their robots. MIT engineers have now developed a robot that grows like a plant. It has a chain-like appendage that can twist or turn in any configuration. The robot can retract and extend its appendage to take on different tasks.
Here is how it works:
The researchers designed a gearbox to represent the robot’s “growing tip,” akin to the bud of a plant, where, as more nutrients flow up to the site, the tip feeds out more rigid stem. Within the box, they fit a system of gears and motors, which works to pull up a fluidized material– in this case, a bendy sequence of 3-D-printed plastic units interlocked with each other.
As the chain is fed into the box, it turns around a winch, which feeds it through a second set of motors programmed to lock certain units in the chain to their neighboring units, creating a rigid appendage as it is fed out of the box.
The researchers can program the robot to lock certain units together while leaving others unlocked, to form specific shapes, or to “grow” in certain directions.
You can read more about it on MIT’s website.