As tunneling creatures go, badgers are some of the oddest-looking, but they’re also pretty cute, in their way. The European Union is a big fan of badgers, it seems, or at least it really wants to make you think of badgers with its underground robotic system. The BADGER project stands for “roBot for Autonomous unDerGround trenchless opERations, mapping and navigation,” but good luck remembering that using the acronym BADGER. Regardless, the idea is a fascinating one. BADGER leverages a system of tunneling robots that autonomously navigate beneath the surface of the Earth, opening up channels for bores and pipelines.
“The robotic system will enable the tunnelling of small-bore networks, support and stabilization of high curvature bores, the automatic detection and annotation of utilities and buried objects as well as the mapping and visualization of the 3D underground space,” states the project page. “At all times, BADGER will allow for complete monitoring and control of the underground operations by human workers and supports them with critical information about the process.”
Normally, to lay pipes or cables, construction workers have to dig trenches, place the pipes or cables inside, and then cover the trenches up again. Existing underground excavation equipment is expensive and can, for the most part, only dig in a straight line, rather than being able to create a winding network of tunnels. Furthermore, they can’t navigate around obstacles such as rocks and roots.
BADGER, on the other hand, can burrow underground, map its environment and autonomously navigate around obstacles thanks to advanced sensing capabilities. It can actually make its own decisions about how best to reach its end goals as it pushes its way through the rock and soil. The robotic excavator will consist of a combination of rotary and impact drilling technology along with an ultrasonic drill that pulverizes rock, and it even has a 3D printer module that prints the walls of the bore and constructs wall support using a 3D printing material such as resin.
The robot sucks up the rock that it pulverizes, then releases it out the back to keep the tunnels clear as it constructs both horizontal and vertical networks. BADGER consists of two main subsystems: the underground robot itself, and a control console operated by a human on the surface. The control console communicates with the underground robot either through wired connection or wireless repeaters installed along the tunnel.
The modular robot was inspired by inchworms, and has three different types of modules: drive modules, which propel and steer the robot; joint modules, which generate relative motion between two modules; and the tool module, which carries the bore-head component. The bore-head is interchangeable, depending on the application. The drive and tool modules carry power units, embedded processing units, communication units and embedded heterogeneous sensors like ground penetrating radar arrays, electronic navigation sensors and laser sensors that enable the robot’s perception, localization and mapping. Like the bore-head, the sensors are interchangeable depending on the application the robot is being used for.
Some of those applications may include:
- Trenchless construction
- Cabling and pipe installations
- Search and rescue
- Remote science and exploration
- Defense applications
The BADGER project began in January of this year and has been funded with €3.7 million for the next three years as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 program – one of several such to use 3D printing in their plans. Seven institutions from five European countries are involved in the project, which is being led by Professor Carlos Balaguer, Santiago Martínez de la Casa and Carme de Andrés Sanchis from the University Carlos III of Madrid.
No prototypes are available yet since BADGER is still in its early stages, but we look forward to seeing them in the future, and to continuing to follow the progress of this strange underground inchworm-like 3D printing robot. Discuss in the BADGER forum at 3DPB.com.
You May Also Like
3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup: February 21, 2021
This coming week is chock full of webinars, with three a day for three days running. So without further ado, let’s dive right in! TriMech on Sweeps and Threads in...
The Future of Bound Metal 3D Printing for ExOne
Bound metal 3D printing is becoming one of the most productive metal additive manufacturing (AM) technologies for creating high-performance parts on-site. One of the few firms pioneering this emerging technology...
AMS 2021: The Gaps in Automating 3D Printing for Production
As exciting as all of the verticals discussed at the online Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit were, automation is a personal favorite as it addresses the gaps between 3D printing and...
ExOne (XONE) Releases Office-Friendly Bound Metal 3D Printer
The competition in Binder Jet is heating up. Just a week ago, Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) announced the two-step bound metal Studio 2 System. By eliminating one step of the...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.