Snake-arm robot works in tight quarters
by Mark Rutherford | Submitted Saturday Oct 18, 2008 [11:52 AM]
A U.K. company has developed what it calls the smallest snake-arm robot ever, one that is flexible and compliant, like an endoscope, but fully controllable and, like a robot, can be precisely positioned.
The unit will be tested by the U.S. Department of Defense in conducting inspections and work inside confined or cluttered spaces.
(Credit: OC Robotics)
When not in use, the robot coils up into a briefcase-size box where it is stowed. This robot has no "elbows," which allows it to "follow its nose" while maneuvering in tight quarters, according to the developer, Bristol-based OC Robotics, unlike conventional industrial robots, which are virtually useless "because their elbows get in the way."(Videos)
The snake-arm is 24-inches long, with longer units on the way. The tendon-driven arm is comprised of vertebrae, similar to a human spine, with wires terminating at various points along its length. The result is that an operator with a joystick can independently control each of the segments (PDF)
The company envisions dozen of uses for the new snake-bot, including aerospace assembly, nuclear inspection and a variant of an invasive surgical procedure called "natural orifice surgery." Yeeoow.
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