- Aug. 27, 2019
-- For the last 15 years, ICM has applied its expertise to produce innovative, patent-protected wall-climbing robots. When it was time to cut the weight of early robot designs, Maggio — who already was familiar with the many benefits of using advanced composites — turned to a local company, DragonPlate to provide design and engineering services and produce high-performance carbon-fiber-
reinforced plastic (CFRP) components that nearly halved robot weight. A side benefit was that the high-precision carbon composite structures also improved reliability and reproducibility (R&R) versus earlier aluminum designs.
To maintain versatility, it was critical to keep robot weight with tools installed under 60 pounds to ensure vacuum pressure was strong enough to maintain contact between the robot and vertical or overhead walls. Another early issue was that the aluminum chassis ICM first used was warping under the pressure of the applied vacuum used to maintain a connection to vertical and overhead surfaces. Maggio and his team turned to engineers at Dragonplate to redesign the chassis. "The Dragonplate team was so successful at taking weight out of the chassis versus the aluminum system we had been using that I asked them to redesign the superstructure, which holds tools mounted to the top of the robot and, eventually, the transition bar and the forward hook, which connects the robot to its tether should power be interrupted,"
recalls Maggio. "I always felt they were rooting for us."
"We've really enjoyed working on this innovative project as it's evolved," recalls J.B. Allred, president, Allred & Assoc., Inc., which owns DragonPlate. "Sam was very focused and had a lot of experience and understanding about what he wanted to accomplish with his robots. And we're pretty good at working with people to help them apply carbon fiber composites to their application. Our two teams worked closely during the design and development of each component to ensure the structural components were as light as possible but could support the high loads. We've continued to work closely to find ways to refine the design to improve performance and reduce cost."
Dragonplate technicians utilized a variety of carbon composite materials and processes to produce various components. All parts are produced in carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy composite. Some components are formed using unidirectional, plain and twill weave prepregs (all standard modulus, 3K, and 12K fiber tows), which are vacuum-bag molded or highly consolidated via a heated hydraulic press to make extremely strong and stiff plates. The team also uses resin-transfer molding (RTM) of preforms and fabrications with carbon fiber braid. Owing to the unique shapes of some of the components, they are subsequently machined and bonded with Dragonplate's stock shapes. Among the most intricate assemblies, the "cannons" that form part of the superstructure feature complex cores that keep the parts extremely stiff but lightweight.
Learn more at: https://dragonplate.com/