Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Brandon Krick

Performing electrical work inside the closed walls of a building is a destructive and difficult task requiring numerous holes to be cut then patched. As the facility infrastructure in the United States ages there is a continual need to upgrade safety, electrical, and telecommunication systems to increase their energy efficiency and capabilities. Impossible Incorporated LLC, a South Bethlehem, PA Keystone Innovation Zone company, has developed a patent pending 1 inch diameter snake-like robot which is able to run wires without the mess. The robot will be inserted through an outlet-sized hole then teleoperated inside the wall to the destination drilling holes in studs and joists along the way. At the far end wires are attached and then the robot rewinds through the wall while pulling them behind it. Other applications for the technology include locating trapped victims following natural disasters, inspection of critical infrastructure and hazardous areas, and as the next generation of robot arms for space exploration.

The goal of this project is to use the expertise of Lehigh University’s Tribology Laboratory to address two critical tribological concerns. A casing will be developed to protect the flexible drive shaft within the robot using polymer composites that combine low wear with low friction properties. Small scale, high toque, gear trains are used within the robot to actuate the links. Specialty processes like Diamond-like carbon (DLC) need to be tested for their wear resistance and ability to keep the gears turning for millions of cycles.

Through this industry/university partnership formed by the PITA program students will be able to learn the technical entrepreneurship process while using their research to solve industry problems. The results of this project will allow Impossible Incorporated LLC to commercially launch the robot and revolutionize how upgrades in existing structures are performed.