Suction Cups in Robotics: Introducing Wall-Climbing Robots

Suction Cups in Robotics: Introducing Wall-Climbing Robots

Analytics Insight explains how suction cups in Robotics have introduced wall-climbing robots

Robotics is one of the major disruptive technologies helping multiple industries and organizations to boost productivity efficiently and effectively with moving, gripping, cleaning, and lifting objects. The world has already seen the development of multiple types of robots ranging from big industrial ones to micro-robots for assistance in the manufacturing, automotive as well as healthcare sectors. Recently, scientists and Robotics engineers have discovered that suction cups can be used in Robotics and their mission was also successful. Let's explore how suction cups in Robotics introduced wall-climbing robots into the world.

It has been observed that multiple robots are assisting human employees in some horizontal areas such as a body, object, water, floor, etc. But there are vertical failures when the robots are climbing high walls of tanks, dams, or boilers. Researchers have infused magnets into the robots for climbing walls made of certain metals. But the robots fail to climb walls that are made of stainless steel, aluminum, glass, and so on. Yet, multiple industries use these materials to build tanks and boilers with high vertical walls. Thus, human employees tend to risk their lives for manually cleaning these walls regularly.

That being said, researchers and scientists have introduced suction cups in Robotics for building wall-climbing robots to protect these human employees from a hazardous environment and occupational injuries. These modern robots can adhere to a surface through the functionalities of suction cups. Implementing suction cups in Robotics is helping robots to reach impossible places efficiently and effectively. Suction cups do not require a vacuum pump or reducing weights and power consumption of robots for specific purposes. Multiple companies are filing for patents in implementing suction cups in robots— an actuator can depress the suction cups in a direction of a vertical surface where the outside of the cup is made of a friction coefficient low material that enables the cup to slide. Industries can utilize these wall-climbing robots to detect small stress cracks in the boilers or tanks.

A New Zealand-based Robotics company known as Invert Robotics is developing wall-climbing robots with the help of US$8.8 million financings from an agtech firm Finistere and Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley. Some researchers and scientists at Zhejiang University, China have developed wall-climbing robots to stand on any kind of surface through a vacuum suction unit. Gecko Robotics is utilizing robots to inspect and detect any thickness, cracks, or other degradations inside tanks, boilers, pipes, and so on with magnetic adhesion. Simon Fraser University in British Columbia utilizes Van der Waals forces for robots to climb walls efficiently with a dry adhesive and a silicon-like polymer that enable adhesion without any chemical or energy.

Researchers Xin Li and Kaige Shi from Zhejiang University have utilized water and centrifugal forces to overcome the surface restrictions with a rotating ring of water. It usually fails to be on the surface due to the flow of air from the atmosphere into a vacuum zone. They have built confined seals to slightly deform and close the gaps between the sealing ring and the texture of the surface. This creates smaller gaps for the flow resistance and gaps in the seals become bigger. The suction cups are dependent on a rotating stream of water to maintain a seal over different surfaces. This will prevent vacuum leakages remove pressure differences in the vacuum zone. The scientists have named this method the Zero Pressure Difference or ZPD. These researchers have tested the new suction cups in robots through three machines— spider-man style robot, a wall-climbing robot with ZPD as well as a robotic arm. A whole lot of water was pushed out of these machines when the cups were moving. Each time wall-climbing robots move forward on a wall sufficient water creates a constant flowing seal for suction cups to stick to.

Yes, introducing wall-climbing robots through the implementation of suction cups has revolutionized the way industries clean their boilers, tanks, pipes, and high-walled objects. It has helped Robotics to gain a new perspective on the functionalities of robots.

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