Space Engine is an autonomous kinematic platform with variable morphology. In particular, relates to self-reconfigurable robotic modules capable of directed movement in order to manipulate their overall shape thereby enabling them to interact with and manipulate their surrounding physical space, including our living space, work space, recreation space, etc.
Space Engine provides a platform comprising a self-reconfigurable robot with a plurality of modules used to create structures capable of addressing specific tasks. The robot is able to deliberately change its own shape by rearranging the connectivity of the modules to adapt to new circumstances, perform new tasks, or recover from damage. This platform engine includes a plurality of identical modules that can attach to and detach from one another and are capable of changing positions relative to one another, thereby changing the shape of the overall robotic structure. Each module is a self-contained unit with its own locking and propulsion systems, its own processing, sensing, power and data distribution systems. Space Engine can adapt its shape to suit the needs of the required task by manipulating the individual modules to move to desired positions and then lock together to form a rigid structure.
This self-reconfigurable robot which comprises a plurality of modules. Each module is cubic or rectangular cuboid in shape, with each of the faces including locking and propulsion systems. Each module has at least 3 locks and is capable of attaching or detaching to its immediate neighboring modules.
Each module also has its own propulsion system. The modules can relocate to change their overall structural shape. Modules can be added to or removed from the system. The underlying intent is to have an indefinite number of identical modules in a three dimensional matrix grid structure of self-reconfigurable modules. The ability of the modules to connect and disconnect and to change position with respect to one another enables them to form many objects or perform many tasks – thus enabling them to move or manipulate the three dimensional space and environment surrounding them.
The ability of the modules to connect and disconnect and to change position with respect to one another enables them to form many objects or perform many tasks – thus enabling them to move or manipulate the three dimensional space and environment surrounding them.
The modules can contain electronics, sensors, connectors, computer processors, memory and power supplies. They can also contain tools that are used for manipulating their location and interacting with other objects outside of or separate from the modular structure. Any task the modules can’t perform on their own can be integrated as attachment tools.
Similar to biological systems that are self-constructed out of a relatively small repertoire of lower-level building blocks (cells or amino acids). This architecture mimics biological systems ability to physically adapt, grow, heal, and even self replicate – capabilities that would be desirable in many engineered systems.
Basic module design has the following components/parts:
Controlling electronics and other electrical components are contained within the module superstructure. Cameras, proximity sensors and other sensors can be add to the frame to sense the environment or surrounding modules, or to aid in accomplishing specific tasks.
The locking system can be any type of hard lock system that enables a module to physically attach to and detach from another neighboring module – for example, latches, bolts, screws, etc. The locking system may also provide a power and/or data connection to linked modules. One module can physically attach and detach to its immediate neighboring modules using a solid locking/coupling mechanism. This creates a static structure that does not need power or energy to maintain rigidity.
Modules can use their electromagnetic propulsion as an additional soft locking system by switching all their magnetic configurations to attach to their immediate neighboring modules. This is useful for rapid task changes by minimizing module lock/unlock time. It can also control and manage impacts from other matrices and objects. Both solid hard locking and magnetic soft locking used together for add structural strength and rigidly. Useful in situations where solid hard locking by itself is inadequate for the required rigidity.
The modules propel in a linear motion, forward or backward along X, Y or Z spatial planes. Motion is not restricted to a single dimensional plane. Modules creates their own momentum forces, able to propel itself by controlled pressure variation created between one or more of its immediate neighboring modules. The propulsion system directs pressure via each face of the modules. The pressure created between a module face and its opposite module face can displace modules parallel to the reaction faces. A proper roadway or track is required for one or more modules to displace. If a group of modules needs to displace along the X-axis, at least one or more reaction faces are required both the -Y and +Y directions as well as the -Z and +Z directions. The modules on the exterior of the matrices cannot displace independently on their own, due to lack of one or more reaction face from immediate neighboring modules. Lacking proper roadways, the displacing modules will be ejected from the main body. These outer modules are moved by attaching to modules in the interior of the matrices, where complete roadway for displacement can be formed.
The most preferred drive system at the present time is one based on electromagnetic or magnetic flux reactions (similar to an DC motor or a Liners motor — e.g., Maglev trains) that uses magnetic pressures to attract and/or repel neighboring modules.
The propelling module use its electromagnets to pull or push forward along the roadway created by other modules. The roadway modules’ faces pull or push the propelling modules forward. Increasing the number of modular reaction faces also increases the total momentum or push/pull forces. The number of magnets on each face and their configurations can change according to requirements. For instance, some of the module faces can be changed from electromagnets to permanent magnets for added force and/or minimize energy usage.
The modules are powered via their own internal batteries or a central power unit for the matrix where power is distributed via a grid running along each module face. In the latter case, electrical contact conductors along the outer frame can distribute electricity to every module in the matrix, whether they are moving or locked as structures.
The modules can also be controlled via a central computers or through internal computers inside of each module. A controller managers and distributes propulsion variables to move modules and lock/unlock them as required, and collect and process sensor data. Inter modular data communication can be performed using wireless signals or hardwire through contacts placed on the exterior surfaces of the modules or the hard lock system.