Kengoro: 3D Printed Robot Works Up a Sweat at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots & Systems

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jskWe’ve certainly spent a lot of time considering what might happen when robots truly can think like us, but very likely not a lot (on the part of the layman, anyway) has been put into considering how they might also be able to move and even show off their stamina like we do one day. And while we so often borrow from nature to find inspiration and the key to innovation—from butterfly wings to salamanders in 3D design of all sorts—now we see that also instilled in a recent project emerging from Japan as robots not only beat us in phys ed now, they’ve got the perspiration to prove it.

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The 3D printed metal offers varying levels of permeability that enable the ‘sweating’ concept. [Image: JSK Lab/University of Tokyo]

Robots that sweat make perfect sense, actually. Just like the human body, machines heat up during activity. Cooling is a continual issue that must be dealt with in construction of anything that basically relies on an engine. And at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) this past week, a team of Japanese researchers showed off a new concept which may be the wave of the future in robotics, offering greater efficiency in higher torque scenarios, prompted by their work on a 1.7-meter tall, 56-kilogram musculoskeletal humanoid that has been dubbed Kengoro.

The team is from JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo. Led by Professor Masayuki Inaba, they have created Kengoro as their third robot, with Kojiro and Kenshiro preceding him. The bio-inspired machine boasts 108 motors, along with a variety of circuit boards, gears, and more. With so many components, the research team was forced to innovate in terms of a cooling mechanism simply due to a lack of room. They chose to look at the 3D printed metal frame of the robot as its ‘skeleton’ and sought a way to make a much more creative cooling system than ever seen before. And it’s the 3D printed element that allows for this sweating mechanism to begin with, due to the varying levels of permeability allowed in the metal material working as microchannels for the fluid (water) to act as sweat when things get hot—ultimately cooling off Kengoro.

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[Image: JSK Lab/University of Tokyo]

 “Usually the frame of a robot is only used to support forces,” lead author Toyotaka Kozuki said in a recent interview. “Our concept was adding more functions to the frame, using it to transfer water, release heat, and at the same time support forces.”

As you can see from the images and the video below, Kengoro is definitely operating on a much different level from the robots we’re using to seeing. He can do push-ups continuously for 11 minutes with this new cooling system which the researchers state is three times better than traditional air cooling. Just one cup of deionized water is enough to keep him cooled for half a day.

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[Screenshot from video provided by JSK Lab/University of Tokyo]

This is all outlined at the conference in “Skeletal Structure with Artificial Perspiration for Cooling by Latent Heat for Musculoskeletal Humanoid Kengoro,” authored by Toyotaka Kozuki, Hirose Toshinori, Takuma Shirai, Shinsuke Nakashima, Yuki Asano, Yohei Kakiuchi, Kei Okada, and Masayuki Inaba. IROS was held in Daejeon, South Korea October 9-14. Discuss in the Kengoro forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: IEEE Spectrum]

 

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