The Sakura is "very compact, as it has to go down stairways just 70cm wide and turn around on landings that are also 70cm," Eiji Koyanagi fuRO's vice director, told DigiInfo TV at Japan Robot Week last month (watch the video below). "Coolant water is leaking from somewhere inside the reactor, because no matter how much water is pumped in, the level doesn't stay above 60cm. But unless that space can be filled with water, the melted-down fuel rods can't be removed safely, so Sakura's first job is to find out where the cracks are."
Its developers say the robot is especially adept at negotiating stairs and ramps, including changes in slope. "The part [of the buildings] above ground slopes at 40 degrees, and that below ground at 42 degrees," Koyanagi said. "This difference of just two degrees is very hard for a robot to handle. What's more, Sakura has to climb down and then climb up to the top of the suppression pool. That stairway slopes at 53 degrees."
He said fuRO expects to test the robot's mobility and durability in the next month or so. "Once that's done, we'll test its ability to carry the necessary equipment on a stairway. Then we plan to fine-tune Sakura by testing it with TEPCO."
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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