What happens when you combine a Roomba and a worker ant? If you have access to 3D printing and sophisticated robot engineering skills, you might get something like this new bionic ant.

It’s not hard to find robotic version of animals that have been proposed for unique tasks, from surveillance and cargo transport to companionship and amusement. In the case of these ants, they may come in handy for round the clock cleaning of your factory floor.

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Self Charging, Wirelessly Communicating, 3D Printed Bugs
Developed by German engineering firm, Festo, the robotic ants are each about the size of a human hand and are comprised of a 3D printed exoskeleton, ceramic legs, metal antennae that serve to charge the battery, and a number of other components that allow the tiny robot to navigate areas, pick up and move small objects, and even work with other robotic ants.

The ants are mobile thanks to piezoelectric materials, which inch along by tiny electrical charges.

Bugs Enter The Workplace
While these ants won’t replace a shop vacuum just yet, they are a dynamic and charming concept of how robots are entering the workplace, and sometimes in forms that aren’t always expected. Inspired by real worker ants that communicate and interact with each other to get a job done, this technology combines novelty with targeted function.

A Demonstration In Energy Generation
Some factories and facilities may be eager to let these types of bugs into their works. However, they may be best-used afterhours to reduce the possibility of ending up under someone’s shoe.  The ants are also a demonstration of how piezoelectric ceramic actuators can work as pressure sensors and play an important role in energy generation. 

This technology is now being explored in a wide range of applications including medical equipment, laboratory automation, and automotive electronics.


Other Real Life Inspired Industrial Insects
If these ants remind you of another robotic insect you’ve seen in the news recently, you may be thinking of tiny pollinating robots that are begin developed by Harvard University researchers and engineers.  Robotic bees and other bionic pollinators may have a major impact on agriculture and the commercial pollination industry over the next decade.

Could you see a type of robotic insect or other animal becoming an asset in your industry or as part of your production process? Share your thoughts on this technology in the comments.

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