Siemens 3D Printing Robot Spiders

Siemens is creating 3D printers that crawl like spiders, cooperating to autonomously create objects.

(Technology Review)

The work is at an early stage, but it hints at where manufacturing may be headed, thanks to more sophisticated robot hardware, smarter control software, and new ways of forming components using 3-D printing. Unlike a conventional robotic production line, which has to be carefully reconfigured for each new product, a team of mobile manufacturing bots would simply be given the latest design and left to go to work.

The robots are equipped with 3-D cameras for mapping their surroundings. But they need to be able to localize themselves with a high degree of accuracy in order to work together effectively. Currently they are too imprecise to build anything very complex, and they will need to become far more sophisticated before actual manufacturing becomes feasible...

The robots are partially automated, but will eventually become more fully autonomous, learning how to interact with their environment...

I'm pretty sure I've seen this future somewhere before. In Charles Sheffield's 1979 novel The Web Between the Worlds, he describes remarkable spider robots that work together to build space structures. They are effectively 3D printers.

The two great ovoid bodies were hanging near the surface of the asteroid, about a hundred meters apart. The eight thin metallic legs were pointed downwards, balanced delicately a few centimeters clear of the surface. Between them, probing deep into the interior of the asteroid, was set the long proboscis. As Rob watched, the great, faceted eyes turned towards him. The Spiders were aware of his presence. Somewhere deep in their organic components lurked a hint of consciousness.

Corrie had been fascinated by them from the first moment she saw one. "Why eight legs?" she had asked.

Rob had shrugged. "It extrudes material like a spider. How many legs wouldi you have given it?

Via Technology Review.

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