(Gekkomat.de) The Gecko is a lizard (fan-foot lizard), which lives predominantly in sub-tropical regions. Through use of its specially designed feet, it can move about on rough along as on smooth surfaces; be it horizontal or over-hanging. By trying to mimic his abilities, he has become the biological role model for the “gekkomat”. From the very start, the aim of this project was to give humans the ability to traverse horizontal or overhanging walls and ceilings as a Gecko.
The project started with technical-physical calculations, followed by ergonomical design studies, computer-aided planning and experiments.
Today, the “gekkomat” is a fully autonomous machine which enables a man to move about on various surfaces (horizontal and overhanging). The technique is based upon a combination of vacuum and friction principles. The “gekkomat” is comprised of a central energy unit which is worn on the back of the “gekkonaut” and four vacuum pads attached to his hands and feet. So now it is possible: “To Climb like a Gecko”!
The Design study ” gekkomat ” has been realized with a fully functional prototype. The feasibility of an energy minimization strategy in vacuum engineering is proven possible along with a combination of various disciplines in the development of a modern High-Tech Product. Starting with a mathematical concept followed by ergonomics and design studies and ending with the application of modern electronics in a final form.
By applying a specially constructed pad to the surface a vacuum is formed allowing it to “cling to the wall”. The needed vacuum is created with the applied use of pressured air supplied from air tanks (such as those used by firefighters) carried on the user’s back. The vacuum effect is constantly measured and adjusted by a computer. Visual and acoustic warning signals informs the user about the momentary load-carrying capacity of each pad. For safety reasons
the computer, which is wired to each pad by data lines, allows only one pad to be free at a time. The pad, when set against a surface adhere automatically and allows itself to be freed by a slight pull upwards. This way a natural movement process is preserved and climbing is quite easily learned.
The “gekkomat” prototype is completely autonomous. i.e. it can be operated without external energy sources. It grants a safe adhesion on concrete, sandstone, plaster, wood and naturally smooth surfaces such as glass and metal. A half hour of operation on a cement wall is possible in the present configuration. The entire unit weighs about 25 kg and the carry capacity amounts to one metric ton.
Connecting each pad to a chest belt enables the gekkonaut a chance to free his hands in order to execute diverse activities.
The user is kept informed of each pad’s vacuum effect along with pneumatic and electrical energy reserves. On each pad is LED display that shows the present strength level of vacuum while adhering and in stationary positions.
Additionally the vacuum display implements acoustic and visual alarms which are activated when a minimum vacuum level is not achieved within 2 seconds of placement on a surface. In such instances the climber must place the pad in a new area. If irregularities should occur despite intensive safety measures
which are built into the machine, error codes are displayed and alternatives to solve the situation are offered by the computer.
An arm gauge displays pneumatic and electrical energy reserves. It supplies information about remaining quantity of air pressure and present battery levels for electronic operations. In this way the climber has all of his resources under control. A further safety control: the “gekkonaut” while in the process of climbing can
only have one pad and not two or more free at a time. A chance of becoming loose and therefore falling is near to impossible.