Humans aren’t the only ones who can break into a cold sweat – this robot does too! Meet Kengoro, a humanoid with over a hundred motors. Kengoro can do push ups for 11 minutes straight. That generates heat so, just like humans, Kengoro sweats!
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They may be superior to we ‘mere mortals’ in terms of strength and endurance, but robots are a lot like us in more ways than you’d expect. When we exert a lot of effort with our muscles, we produce heat. When we do that, we need to cool down in order to regulate our body temperature. We do that naturally through sweating. Sweat cools our bodies as it evaporates. Now replace those muscles with motors that are in constant high torque demand and you have a robot that also needs a cooling system to avoid overheating.
Dynamic robots such as humanoids can do many human activities that are considered unsafe or less productive for a human to do. We get tired. Robots don’t. While it is true that they can overheat, malfunction, or bust a limb or two, robots are designed to give many years of service if given the right maintenance. And ‘wear and tear’ isn’t a problem because they can be rebuilt piece by piece! However, it is their motors that ultimately determine their lifespan. And the most common threat to the motors is overheating.
Cooling isn’t new… sweating is!
There is an existing cooling system for robots which usually comprise of active water cooling
with tubes, a radiator, and fans. But with a humanoid like Kengoro, which has over a hundred motors, there’s simply no room for such an elaborate system to be installed without compromising efficiency.
Japanese engineers found a solution to the problem, which is so simple, it’s ingenious! Humanoids are called such because their appearance and functions are patterned after humans. Following the principle of nurturing what is in nature, engineers devised a system that would make Kengoro follow the human’s cooling system – by letting it sweat!
Researchers from the University of Tokyo, led by Professor Masayuki Inabe used Kengoro’s skeletal structure as a coolant delivery system. The robot can sweat through its 3D printed skeletal frame, which is made of highly permeable metal that’s full of tiny gaps and tunnels similar to a sponge. These microchannels are where water can seep through and evaporate once it is out of the frame.
While tests show that the traditional radiator cooling system is still more effective in most situations, ‘sweating’ allows humanoids like Kengoro to handle continuous high torque activities. In other words, Kengoro can run at full power for longer without overheating its motors by sweating through its bones. Now, how cool is that?
Watch Kengoro work out…
Hmmm… I wonder if Kengoro will need a robot strength deodorant 🙂