KAIST Prof. Park Hae-won, left, poses with other researchers who work on a quadrupedal robot at their research lab at the South Korean university. Photo courtesy of KAIST

Korean university team develops fast-climbing robot

A team of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced on Dec. 26 that they had developed a capable quadrupedal robot.

The team headed by Prof. Park Hae-won said that the robot named MARVEL had been designed to climb steel walls and crawl across metal ceilings at the fastest speed in the world.

Short for the Magnetically Adhesive Robot for Versatile and Expeditious Locomotion, MARVEL was disclosed in a paper printed last month on the Science Robotics.

MARVEL climbed up a vertical wall at high speed at a speed of 70 cm per second and was able to walk while hanging upside down from the ceiling at a maximum speed of 50 cm per second.

This is the world’s fastest speed for a walking climbing robot. 

To achieve the notable capability of the robot, Prof. Park’s team developed a foot pad that can quickly turn the magnetic adhesive force on and off while retaining high adhesive force even on an uneven surface through the use of the (EPM) and MRE.

Brief for Electro-Permanent Magnet, the former is a device that can magnetize and demagnetize an electromagnet with little power. Meaning the Magneto-Rheological Elastomer, the latter refers to an elastic material made by mixing a magnetic response factor with an elastic material.

These walking robots are expected to be put into a wide variety of usage, including being programmed to perform inspections, repairs, and maintenance tasks on large structures made of steel, such as ships, bridges, transmission towers, large storage areas, and construction sites, according to KAIST.

“Existing wall-climbing robots use wheels or endless tracks, so their mobility is limited on surfaces with steps or irregularities,” Prof. Park said.

“On the other hand, walking robots for climbing can expect improved mobility in obstacle terrain, but have disadvantages in that they have significantly slower moving speeds or cannot perform various movements.”