It was just back in March that German electrical automation company Festo unveiled two of its latest robots inspired by animals – a crawling/rolling spider and a flying fox bat. Now, it's taken the wraps off BionicFinWave, which moves like a cuttlefish.
Along with the polyclad marine flatworm, which was another inspiration for the robot, the actual cuttlefish moves forwards and backwards through the water via two continuously-undulating fins that run along both sides of its body. The largely 3D-printed BionicFinWave is equipped with two such fins of its own, although they're made out of highly-flexible silicone.
Each fin is moved by nine integrated lever arms, which are connected via a flat crankshaft to one of two servo motors housed within the robot. Those motors operate independently of one another – this lets the two fins undulate at different speeds and in opposite directions, allowing the robot to turn left or right on the spot. It moves up and down via a third motor that it uses to bend its articulated body accordingly.
A certain degree of buoyancy is achieved via a series of watertight cavities within the robot's body, that house its electronics.
BionicFinWave was recently shown to the public for the first time at the Achema 2018 tech trade show in Frankfurt, where it autonomously swam through a network of clear acrylic pipes. It was able to do so via a pressure sensor that allowed it to gauge its depth within the water, along with ultrasound sensors that it used to measure how close it was to the walls. It's also capable of wirelessly transmitting its pressure readings, along with data such as water temperature, to a tablet located outside of the pipes.
The robot itself is 370 mm long (14.6 inches) and weighs 430 g (0.9 lb). Down the road, it is hoped that devices like it could be used for tasks such as mechanical inspection and scientific data acquisition, in which a premium is placed on propulsion systems that allow for slow, precise movements while creating little turbulence.
BionicFinWave can be seen in action, in the following video. Scientists at Northwestern University have also created a cuttlefish-inspired robot, known as Sepios.
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