Siemens’ robotic spiders are like autonomous 3D printers with legs

Spiders can be creepy — especially when they’re a foot wide and have eyes like Wall-E. But Lucky for us the spiders pictured above share the Pixar’s character’s intent — to help us. They’re a creation of Siemens’ Corporate Technology at Princeton, designed to be the automated construction bots of the future.

Related: See here for more 3D printers and accessories

Livio Dalloro, leader of the Product Design, Modeling and Simulation Research team, calls them SiSpis — shorthand for Siemens Spiders. “SiSpis are part of a larger picture that we define as Siemens Agile Manufacturing Systems (SiAMS) and they represent the core of our autonomous systems research here in Princeton,” Dalloro said.

Instead of spinning silk, these robot spiders spin plastic — or rather, a cornstarch-sugarcane mix called poly lactic acid. They’re essentially 3D printers with legs. Dalloro said, “We are looking at using multiple autonomous robots for collaborative additive manufacturing of structures, such as car bodies, the hulls of ships and airplane fuselages.”

Hasan Sinan Bank, who holds several associated patents and played a leading role in the project said, “Each spider is capable of manufacturing only a small portion of a work piece.” Something as large as the hull of a ship, would need a virtual army of these spiders working together. A good portion of the research involved creating algorithms that let the robots coordinate as they work.

“With the exception of the spiders’ mini motors and cables, which were off-the-shelf products, we developed everything ourselves from the mechanics to the software,” Dalloro said. Physical parts were 3D printed, and the team developed a unique software that combines Siemens’ own NX and a Robot Operating System.

By dividing the area into a grid, the robots use the given length of their arms to figure out the space they need to cover. Input from a laser scanner and camera allow the robots to interpret their environment.

Not only will these robots build on their own, they’ll charge themselves. When a robot’s battery gets low, it will send information about its job to a fully-charged robot, essentially tagging in another worker before it stops working to automatically seek out a charging station. The new worker can take up exactly where the first left off.

Dalloro explained of the project, “Its goal was to create a prototype platform for autonomous manufacturing machines that can understand a task, split it up among available robots, and enter into a manufacturing process in a collaborative and coordinated way without explicit programming.”

Bank said, once these robotic spiders “mature” the technology has broad applications. SiSpis have been in development since 2014, and the team is still at work with no release date announced, so no need to worry about the robot uprising just yet.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.
Cars

GM Cruise to double its autonomous-car team to meet robo-taxi goal

With its eye on the launch of a robo-taxi service before the end of the year, General Motors' Cruise Automation has said it plans to double the size of its autonomous-vehicle team over the next nine months.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.