Pushing the envelope of robot technology happens so often these days that it’s hard to find the edges of the envelope, but the latest new development from a Harvard-led team of researchers seems pretty close to the edge.
The stingray-shaped robot started out with a skeleton made of gold. Not for looks or luxe, but because gold is chemically inert. Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard, had noticed a similarity between the movements of sting rays and the movements of hearts when they beat. The team covered the golden skeleton with plastic and rubber for flexibility, and then with 200,000 rat heart-muscle cells.
The cells contract when stimulated and push the stingray’s fins down. The fins are designed in such a way that they snap back up. Oh, and of course they’ve also been genetically engineered to respond to light. This means that the team can use light rays to control the movement of the stingray robot, at least enough to make them swim through an obstacle course in a vat of sugar water.
This is the kind of experiment that makes scientists sound mad, but it also represents some serious advances in robotics. The researchers hope to use what they learn in this project to move further toward robotic heart replacements.
The stingrays currently have a life span of just about a week, and their creators say they’re “alive, but not an organism.”
This type of motion control is a far cry from Rexroth’s industrial motion control, but bioengineering has been responsible for many improvements in motion control technology. While we’re waiting to learn what’s next for industrial motion control, we can help you with any issues you may have with your Rexroth electric drive and control units. Servos, drives, controls, power supply modules, and all the additional supplies like cables and batteries — we can help with service and support.