Apr 28, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have used 3D printing to create a Tarzan-inspired swinging robot. The unusual bot uses 3D printed claws to swing itself along the length of a wire, and could be used by farmers to monitor crops.

Georgia Tech's new 3D printed swinging robot was inspired by beloved feral man Tarzan

In what might be one of the more unusual robotics projects of the year, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a robot inspired by Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fictional feral man who was raised by apes in the jungle following the death of his parents.

But unlike the literary Tarzan, this partially 3D printed robot has one very specific goal: to swing itself along a stretch of cable in order to monitor the ground below. According to the researchers involved, this could make the new “Tarzan” a handy machine for farmers looking to monitor crops. “Me Tarzan, you maize,” it might say.

The Tarzan-inspired robot, whose movement actually mimics that of a sloth, is capable of swinging up and down the length of a wire using 3D printed claws and articulated arms. When one arm takes hold of the wire, the other pumps back and forth until it has generated enough swing to grasp a more advanced section of the wire, thus propelling the robot forwards.

Georgia Tech's 3D printed Tarzan robot mid-swing

It’s great fun to watch, and it’s also got some pretty sensible engineering behind it too. While this Tarzan is currently powered by batteries, the Georgia Tech researchers say that a future version could use solar panels, making it even better suited for outdoor work.

And outdoor work is apparently this robot’s calling: Jonathan Rogers, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, says that the partially 3D printed Tarzan robot could assist those working in the agriculture industry, since robots with wheels or legs find it difficult to move through dense fields without damaging crops.

With a cable suspended at the right height above those crops, Tarzan would not only move freely over the fields without damaging anything, it could also capture aerial images or collect other data about what lies below, sending information to the farmer via a wireless connection.

It might sound weird, but the Georgia Tech researchers believe that this kind of technology is absolutely essential to the next generation of agriculture.

Georgia Tech's Jonathan Rogers talking about the 3D printed Tarzan robot

“The only way we can really achieve the level of food production we’re going to need in the future is to employ automation and robots,” Rogers said. “When somebody came to me and asked ‘How do we get a robot to live in a field for long periods of time and walk around and move around persistently without needing a human to help it?’ The only way is to do something out of the way and off the ground.”

Sensible talk, and we were pretty much on board with the whole project—until the Assistant Professor claimed that his 3D printed Tarzan is the “best way” of moving around off the ground. Hmmm. While one can certainly appreciate the artistry of the 3D robot, that claim is surely up for debate.

Drones, for example, would have the freedom to hone in on specific areas of a field, as they are not confined to straight lines. (We saw an impressive crop dusting drone just last week.) And even a pulley-based system would seem to offer the advantages of the Tarzan robot with perhaps a smaller chance of malfunction.

We’ll give Georgia Tech the benefit of the doubt, however, because the 3D printed swinging robot surprisingly performs very well in terms of energy consumption. This, the researchers say, is largely thanks to the influence of the sloth.

“The sloth is really energy efficient, and we’re trying to design this robot to be very energy efficient too,” Rogers said. “Essentially, one day it can be powered by the sun…swinging along on its way without needing power, without needing batteries, without needing to be charged.”

The 3D printed Tarzan robot was built at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM), where five Georgia Tech colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute collaborate on projects that have attracted approximately $32 million in sponsored research.

While we’re not expecting Tarzan to swing its way out of the laboratory and into a farming job anytime soon, we’ll be very happy if it does.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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comeinandburn wrote at 5/2/2017 1:25:10 PM:

agreed.. After watching this for 2 seconds made me think the same thing. Someone got a huge Research Grant for creating this:)

I.AM.Magic wrote at 5/2/2017 8:09:29 AM:

Way over engineered ! definitely not energy efficient. Just an excuse to develop a swinging robot.

2Rbotoguy wrote at 4/28/2017 5:13:09 PM:

What don't you use wheels? https://youtu.be/2h6UPMcy8-o

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