Meet SiSpis - the 3D printing spiderbot army!

  • Nimish Sany
  • 30 April , 2016

Meet the spiders!

Meet SiSpis, the spiders that do much more than spinning webs and waiting for prey all day. The project overviewed by Livio Dalloro, team head of the Modeling and Simulation Research group at Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) has came up with something intriguing to say the least. These spider-bots can be employed to do virtually everything real-world spiders can’t.

                                                                         Picture courtesy:


So what’s the hype all about?

The concept of mimicking nature is not new to us; and we have come a long way from bat wings inspiring Da Vinci to design the flying machine. However it is the inherent advantage of eight legs and the ability to be agile in all directions that follows it that has inspired the creative minds at CT. The bots are to be deployed as a team whose responsibilities include 3D printing of structures. The project is aimed to level the demand in defense and marine construction industries where harsh and not-so-human friendly conditions are battled on a daily basis. With a team of these guys moving around and 3D printing the structures, in situ construction is never going to be the same again.

Dalloro explains, the Siemens Agile Manufacturing Systems (SiAMS) which is the mother-ship that houses the SiSpis project, is the governing systems research by Siemens. He also added that the bots are in fact autonomous additive manufacturing devices that can move around as a team as well.


How it works

The sight of an army of spider-bots moving around vigorously, printing structures out of nowhere and assembling them laboriously would be hard one to swallow at first. However the movements and responsibilities of each bot will be pre programmed through algorithms and will be monitored through the effective use of tracking tools.

Each bot is provided with an on-board camera and scanning systems which helps the bot to settle in with the environment. A single bot is able to track other bots and to synchronize its movements.


                                                                                       Picture courtesy: Siemens


With each bot assigned an individual task, the team of spider-bots join forces to see through their objective, whatever it might be. The bots are assigned to workspaces which are determined by the extent of their arms which are in turn, their extruders. Each hand is capable of 3D printing structures with polylactic acid. Depending on the nature of the task, the workspaces can be vertical boxes or complex geometries, both of which the bots can handle equally proficient. The bots work on batteries and are called back if in need of charging.

The helmsmen of SiSpis are looking at various potential labor the spider-bots can be assigned. The ability to be controlled and pre-programmed can be made use to assemble, dismantle, construction or even managing a whole factory by themselves.

“Everything was built from scratch”, says Dalloro, “even the mechanism and the software tools”. However, components like the bots’ motors were outsourced.

In addition to creating the software from scratch, which is used in association with NX, a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software from Siemens. The components of the bots were 3D printed. The scientists also designated a ‘behavior’ to the spider-bots, which in turn required them to develop the tools required to instill a behavior into the bots.


What’s in store?


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Hasan Sinan Bank, a leading member of the team explained, “This is a first in mobile manufacturing”. The team also adds that the goal of the project was to actualize or materialize the idea of autonomous manufacturing machines that can distribute and assign tasks logically among them on their own and put themselves into labor and complete the task through coordination and synchronization with the working environments.

The printing material of the extruders provisioned in the arms of the spider-bot is polylactic acid, a conventionally used material. Nevertheless, this is something that can be improvised in coming times.

“Once the technology becomes mature,” says Bank, “It could be applied to almost anything.”

With improved agile mechanisms and sophisticated algorithms, SiSpis means serious business and is looking forward to change conventional manufacturing methods for the better. Efficiency, tracking and controlling would be much easier. Imagine a whole factory run by these arachnids! Well, you wouldn’t have to imagine anymore.


Nimish Sany: I bleed my thoughts on paper. And if I cant find a paper, blogs serve the purpose just fine.

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