Climbing Robots — Pneumatic climbing robot and Gecko robot
The last few years had witnessed a strong, renewed interest in climbing and walking robotic technologies. Climbing robots are useful devices that can be adopted mainly in three fields.
1. Reliable non-destructive evaluation and diagnosis in hazardous environments such as the nuclear industry, the chemical industry and the power generation industry (Long, Muscato, 2004) (Briones, L. et al., 1994);
2. Welding and manipulation in construction industry, especially of metallic structures such as in bridges, shipping, off-shore industries and buildings' skeletons usually involve a very high number of dangerous manual operations (Armada, M. et al., 1998) (Abderrahim, M. et al., 1991);
3. Cleaning and maintenance for high-rise buildings (Elkmann, N. et al., 2002) (Liu, R. et al., 2003).
Now there are a large number of high-rise buildings with curtain glass walls in modern cities. Figure 1 shows the typical environments for cleaning robots. These external cladding walls require constant cleaning which is presently typically carried out using a costly, permanent gondola system hanging from the roof of the building. This solution is highly expensive, quite dangerous in mid-air.
We proposed two kinds of climbing robots in our lab recently. One is a lightweight smart wall-climbing robot for rescue missions last year, which was developed as a flexible mobile platform carrying a CCD camera and other sensors. Firstly we designed a semi-autonomous climbing prototype with wheels and negative pressure, as shown in Fig. This prototype is only 300mm wide and 200mm long, the weight is 3kg including the battery.
Our lab has acquired a new kind of pneumatic climbing robot to meet the requirements of glass-wall cleaning for high-rise buildings. The robot is actuated by pneumatic cylinders and attaches itself to walls with vacuum suckers. These pneumatic actuators enabled the construction of a lightweight and dexterous robot. At the same time the pneumatically driven movement has the characteristic of passive compliance.
These projects are accomplished by the University of Hamburg and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beijing China.