FILTON, England, 17 Aug. 2008. Engineers at OC Robotics in Filton, England, have developed one-half-inch diameter snake-arm robots for inspecting and working inside confined or cluttered spaces. The robot, developed for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), is one of the smallest portable automated machines of its kind, company officials say.
The snake-arm robot, which is stored in and uncoils from a briefcase-sized box, is two feet long. OC Robotics, which has developed other kinds of snake-arm robots, is developing longer versions of this one-half-inch device.
Snake-arm robots are flexible robotic arms without elbows to get in the way of operating in confined spaces. Snake-arm robots are flexible and compliant, like endoscopes, but they are controllable like a robot and can be precisely positioned, company officials say.
OC Robotics already has developed a snake-arm robot for Airbus in Toulouse, France, for assembly and inspection tasks within aircraft wings -- an area previously inaccessible to automation. The robot for Airbus is capable of sealing, swaging, and inspection inside a mockup of an aircraft wing rib bay. The robot now is set to begin testing.
The snake-arm robot moves its tip around obstacles with a tip-mounted camera. OC Robotics officials say it is effectively a controllable endoscope able to snake into awkward or cluttered environments.
The first device of this type was recently delivered to the U.S. DOD. For more information contact OC Robotics online at www.ocrobotics.com.