Walking and rolling like the flic-flac spider – the BionicWheelBot moves along the ground in astounding ways. Together with the team headed by the discoverer of the spider, Professor Ingo Rechenberg, Festo has taken a very close look at these unique forms of locomotion and has technically realized them. The new project from the Bionic Learning Network of Festo is shown at the opening of the Technical Engineering Center of Festo in Boston.
The biological model for the BionicWheelBot is the flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi), which lives in the Erg Chebbi desert on the edge of the Sahara. Professor Ingo Rechenberg, a bionics professor at the TU Berlin, discovered it there in 2008. The flic-flac spider can walk like other spiders; however, it can also move with a combination of somersaulting and rolling on the ground. It is therefore ideally adapted to its surroundings: on even ground, it is twice as fast in so-called rolling mode than when walking.
Since the spider’s discovery, Professor Rechenberg has been working on transferring its movement patterns to technological applications. Based on these extensive studies, Rechenberg and his team first constructed several prototypes for the BionicWheelBot. He has now further developed the kinematics and drive concept of the artificial spider together with Festo as part of the Bionic Learning Network.
The BionicWheelBot: transition from walking to rolling mode
Just like a natural spider, the BionicWheelBot propels itself with a tripod gait, whereby it uses six of its eight legs to walk. In order to start rolling, the BionicWheelBot bends three legs on each side of its body to make a wheel. The two legs that are folded up during walking are then extended, push the rolled-up spider off the ground, and continuously push it forward while rolling. This prevents the BionicWheelBot from grinding to a halt and ensures that it can keep moving forward even on rough terrain.
In rolling mode, the BionicWheelBot performs a somersault with its whole body, just like the real flic-flac spider. Thanks to its integrated inertial sensor, it always knows what position it is in and when it has to push off again. It, too, is therefore much faster when rolling than walking, and it can even overcome uphill inclines of up to five per cent.
The Bionic Learning Network
Over ten years ago Festo initiated the Bionic Learning Network, which is closely linked with the processes of innovation within the company. In cooperation with students, renowned universities, institutes and development companies, Festo sponsors projects, testbeds and technology platforms. The objective is to benefit from bionics as a source of inspiration for new technologies and to realise these in industrial automation.
For further information: www.festo.com/bionics