Designing a Robot from Ice

In a paper presented at the 2020 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Devin Carroll and Mark Yim from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, takes a look at different ways of manufacturing a modular robot in which ice is the sole structural element, under the assumption that ice is all over the solar system and the robot would be operating in an environment with ice all over the place. They explore molding, 3D printing, and machining (i.e additive and substrative) as possible manufacturing methods, with the goal of developing robots that can exhibit self-reconfiguration, self-replication, and self-repair.

Modular robotic systems with self-repair or selfreplication capabilities have been presented as a robust, low cost solution to extraterrestrial or Arctic exploration. This paper explores using ice as the sole structure element to build robots. The ice allows for increased flexibility in the system design, enabling the robotic structure to be designed and built post deployment, after tasks and terrain obstacles have been better identified and analyzed. However, ice presents many difficulties in manufacturing. The authors explore a structure driven approach to examine compatible manufacturing processes with an emphasis on conserving process energies. The energy analysis shows the optimal manufacturing technique depends on the volume of the final part relative to the volume of material that must be removed. Based on experiments three general design principles are presented. A mobile robotic platform made from ice is presented as a proof of concept and first demonstration.

Carroll, D., and Yim, M. Robots Made From Ice: An Analysis of Manufacturing Techniques.

It there ever was a moment to think of ice robots it’s been this week in Spain, frozen under the storm Filomena.


Featured Image: Iceman – Marvel Contest Of Champions

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