New drive concepts and amazing forms of movement have always played an important role in our Bionic Learning Network. The BionicWheelBot is a running robot with very special features inspired by the cartwheeling spider.
The biological role model for the BionicWheelBot is the cartwheeling spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi). It lives in the Erg Chebbi desert on the edge of the Sahara. Professor Ingo Rechenberg, a bionics professor at Berlin Technical University, discovered it there in 2008. The spider can run like other spiders. It can also move with a flic-flac roll.
This allows it to adapt optimally to its environment: On level ground it is twice as fast in its so-called rolling mode as when running. Where the ground is uneven, however, individual steps are advantageous. This allows it to move safely and efficiently in the desert – where both types of terrain can be found.
Since he discovered the spider, Prof. Rechenberg has been working on transferring its movement patterns to the technical field. Studies into the behavior of the spider led to the construction of various robots which can move on difficult terrain. For the BionicWheelBot, the Berlin scientist has now further developed the kinematics and the drive concept together with our bionics team.
To start rolling, the BionicWheelBot forms two sets of three legs on either side of its body into a wheel. Two legs that are folded in during running now extend, pushing the spider off the ground and propelling it permanently while rolling. They prevent the BionicWheelBot from getting stuck and ensure that it can also move in rough terrain. In rolling mode, the artificial spider – like its natural role model – is much faster than when running. The robot can even cope with gradients of up to five percent.