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This 3D-printed four-legged robot is ready to take on Spot — at a lower price

New Spirit 40: First Steps & Quick Run

Most people reading this will be familiar with four-legged robots such as the dog-inspired Spot robot developed by Boston Dynamics or Swiss robotics company ANYbotics’ ANYmal. But while there’s no doubt that such robots are supremely impressive, they’re also expensive — which could limit their application in certain domains.

That’s a problem that a new collaboration between robotics company Ghost Robotics and pioneering 3D printing company Origin hopes to help solve. The two companies have teamed up to develop a new line of robots, called the Spirit Series, which offer impressively capable four-legged robots, but which can be printed using additive manufacturing at a fraction of the cost and speed of traditional manufacturing approaches. This isn’t just 3D-printed prototyping, either: The finished pieces are comparable in quality to their CNC machined predecessors, although they can be printed for just one-quarter the cost.

“Together, Origin and Ghost Robotics have manufactured a robot and brought it to market without GR needing to invest in expensive up-front tooling that can’t be modified,” Chris Prucha, founder and CEO of Origin told Digital Trends. “This allows Ghost Robotics to deploy products into the field, test, get feedback, [and then] iterate on designs, while keeping costs low. Origin’s 3D printing technology produces parts that are of injection-molding quality at a lower cost than traditional manufacturing.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s not just about the cost and speed, though. Drawing on Origin’s open materials platform, the team identified a tough durable polymer for the panels, developed by Henkel Loctite, that’s able to better withstand the elements.

Right now, Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh said the company’s primary robot customers are in the military, public safety, and intel markets. However, from the second quarter of 2020 they will be offering its new 3D-printed robots for enterprise pilots in areas ranging from manufacturing to mining. Eventually, Parikh thinks such robots will become a regular part of all our lives. If dog robots become ubiquitous as the 2020s wear on, cutting-edge 3D printing could therefore have a lot to do with it.

“They will be front and center, [replacing] jobs that dogs currently have for public safety applications, and eventually delivery of packages and finally in the home as a mobile [Internet of Things] platform securing your property and your family,” Parikh said. “They will roam manufacturing plants looking for anomalies [and] safety issues; scan work progress on construction sites; secure perimeters of airports and other high-value locations, and so on.”

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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