Marvel, the climbing artist among the robots

Marvel is a born climber. He quickly crawls up walls or walks headfirst along a wall. The four-legged robot can move both forwards and backwards – provided the base is made of iron or other ferromagnetic materials. Thanks to his abilities, Marvel would be the ideal helper for maintenance work and inspection tasks on hard-to-reach bridges, oil tanks or in ship hulls. It was developed by researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The secret of Marvel’s climbing skills lies in his feet. These consist of electromagnets encased in permanent-magnetic plastic. The individual magnets can be switched on and off depending on the gait. At least one of the four feet sticks firmly to the ground. In this way, Marvin progresses with amazing speed and agility.

Marvel sticks to a tank covered in rust.

Marvel sticks to a tank covered in rust.

Image: KAIST

The robot, which weighs eight kilograms, can as the researchers report in Science Robotics, climb vertical walls at a speed of three quarters of a meter per second. He’s a bit slower when he’s running headlong down the thicket. Marvel is able to jump four-inch gaps, negotiate two-inch high obstacles, and carry eight-pound loads.

In an outdoor experiment, the researchers demonstrated that their robot can climb up a round storage tank that was covered with a layer of paint up to 0.3 millimeters thick, but also with rust and dust.

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