Autonomous robots weave a series of tubes to build large structures. Perfect for building bases on other worlds.
Each “Fiberbot” has a winding arm that pulls fiber from a tank on the ground, mixes the materials in a nozzle, and winds the wetted fiber around itself like a silkworm cocooning. Next, the robot turns on an ultraviolet light to cook the fiber into a hard tube. Then, it deflates its body and uses a tiny motor and wheels to inch itself up on top of the hardened fiber, where the process begins again.
The robots can tilt and use different winding patterns to vary the thickness and the direction of the tubes. As they build, the Fiberbots communicate with each other through a computer network to avoid running into each other or other obstacles. Together, they can calculate the most efficient way to build a given structure.
Over 12 hours, a team of 22 robots was able to build two treelike structures 4.5 meters tall (about the height of a double-decker bus), the researchers report today in Science Robotics. The researchers had intended the robots’ trees to meet in the middle to form a tentlike shelter, but found the machines actually overcorrected their paths to avoid bumping into each other.
In Charles Sheffield's 1979 novel The Web Between the Worlds, he describes remarkable spider robots that work together to build space structures.
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.