When robots are programmed with tasks for which they have to move on the ground, it will be important to see that they move across different terrains quickly and effectively. Bipedal motion is a great challenge to accomplish for machines, so Carter Hurd, a robotics enthusiast makes excellent use of the prototyping features of a 3D-Printer and has designed a transformable 3D-printed wheel that can pass over various types of terrain and surface textures quickly and effectively.
He designed a set of bulb-shaped mechanisms that can effectively move over smooth surface like carpet, cement and other indoor surfaces. The bulb splits radially into a series of wedges slices which opens up outward, transforming the robot into something of a spiked configuration for passing over mulch, sand, and other outdoor surfaces. The spikes for the spiky wheel are interchangeable and customizable for sand and other surfaces. In order to unfurl itself however, the shaft has to balance the robot’s own weight and when it is carrying a load.
To address this issue, Carter modified his design so that the rest of the segments would snap open around the one supporting the load, once the wheel begins rotating, they would shift the weight, allowing the last piece to extend. Hopefully Carter will publish the design files and paper on the transforming wheel soon on his homepage. Watch the robot in action in the video below.