A Plague of Swarming and Jumping 3D Printed Locust Robots? Yes, Really!

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loc1Sometimes in order to express possibilities for the future we can reach back into the past, in this case the Biblical past, for images to capture the stage that today’s technology is setting. In this case, the science fiction image is a plague of (robot) locusts. Israel has recently announced that it has achieved something remarkable in the category of 3D printed robots. Tel Aviv University and ORT Braude College have collaborated on the design and creation, under the watchful eye of Professor Amir Ayali, of a locust-inspired robot that can jump up to 11.5 feet. Say that again?

Using steel springs, carbon rods, and 3D printed plastic pieces, this robot weighs less than an ounce and is 4 inches long. The initial idea of drawing from the locust’s swarming capabilities inspired the team to create a robot that runs off a motor that generates and stores mechanical energy and is powered by a lithium battery. The stored mechanical energy is what’s behind the robot’s ability to spring high into the air, since its legs are patterned after the locust itself. The robot’s lead designer, Professor Ayali, explains:

“The locust being a large insect that has wonderful jumping performance had offered itself as wonderful inspiration for this specific idea of a jumping…miniature jumping robot… What you do with it is whatever is needed whenever you want to engage any kind of robotic system with no human interference.”

Even more impressive is the contention that the locust robot, named TAUB, can jump up to 1,000 times on one battery. Hmmm: are you starting to wonder where you can get one of these for yourself?

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Well, as luck would have it, Professor Ayali told Reuters that mass production of the robot would not be so difficult due to its cheap parts and easy to manufacture design. Ayali predicted that the robots could sell for about $100 USD, which doesn’t seem like much for a locust-inspired robot that can jump 11.5 feet 1,000 times on one battery!

locustDr. Gabor Kosa, of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Engineering, imagines that GPS navigation systems and cameras can be installed on a swarm of solar-powered robots that can carry out sureveillance duties. Other duties include more eco-apocalyptic scenarios like the next large oil spill: really, the sky’s the limit for a small robot that can jump 11.5 feet. To this end, Kosa expressed his interest in evolving this creation into a robotic system that can jump many times and mimic the locust by spreading its wings and flying, as well.

For now, it seems like the team is off to an incredible start with TAUB: a robot with 3D printed plastic parts capable of implementing the mechanisms of swarming capabilities, via a study of the locust’s own instincts, in robotic systems.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Locust Bot forum on 3DPB.com

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