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Michelin, the company that invented the radial tire, has rolled out a
radical new concept called the Tweel. As this prototype demonstrates, the
traditional rubber tire and solid wheel duo is replaced by a tread bonded
to a strong loop of composite material. The vehicle's weight hangs from a
series of polymer plastic spokes that connect this loop to the hub. The
flexible Tweel can bear the load of a pneumatic tire four times its size,
it can cushion bumps five times better than a pneumatic tire, and the
contact area can be nearly doubled for improved handling. Noise, mass, and
rolling resistance have to be improved before this promising new technology
is ready for high-speed, high-load passenger-car applications.
According to one of the developers, engineer Dennis Hong, the spoke wheel concept "allows multiple modes of motion, which give it the ability to stride quickly using one contact point per wheel, walk with static stability with two contact points per wheel, or assume a stable stance using three contact points per wheel." Hong designed the system along with colleague Doug Laney.
Legs work better when negotiating very rough terrain, but are often slower than wheeled vehicles on smooth surfaces. The IMPASS system tries for the best of both worlds; the three spokes can be made to lengthen or shorten independently, allowing the robot to adjust itself to overcome obstructions. Turning can be done by varying spoke length as well.
Originally posted by websurfer
Its not really the looks that got to me, but more of a design that someone would ask: "Why wasn't this done earlier?"