GE Aerospace has recently showcased a groundbreaking worm-like robot that holds the potential to revolutionize the inspection and maintenance of jet engines. Dubbed “Sensiworm” (Soft ElectroNics Skin-Innervated Robotic Worm), this innovative creation aims to act as an additional set of senses for service operators as they delve into the intricacies of aircraft engines.
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GE’s vision is that this soft robot can significantly reduce downtime, conduct less intrusive inspections, and potentially execute repairs independently in the future.
Comparing the role of Sensiworm in aerospace engineering and maintenance to the way soft robotics have transformed minimally invasive medical surgeries, GE sees the potential for less intrusive inspections and repairs while engines remain installed on the aircraft. The company envisions the worm-like robot offering service operators “virtually unrestricted access” to inspect engines without the need for disassembly.
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Resembling an inchworm in its appearance and remotely operated by skilled professionals, Sensiworm has the ability to navigate various engine components, including the rotating blades of wind turbines. Equipped with automatic obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities, it can reach areas that might be inaccessible to other tools, thanks to its suction-cup feet.
Moreover, the robot can accurately measure the thickness of thermal barrier coatings and even detect gas leaks. GE envisions its soft and adaptable design enabling comprehensive inspections of jet engines, providing live video feeds and real-time data on the condition of components that operators typically scrutinize.
The development of the Sensiworm by GE Aerospace was made possible through SEMI Flex Tech, a collaborative initiative funded by the US Army that focuses on advancing flexible electronics. While GE has not disclosed the current stage of Sensiworm’s development or a specific timeline for its deployment, the potential of this robotic marvel is undoubtedly a significant leap forward in the realm of aerospace technology.
Watch the video below to witness Sensiworm in action, accompanied by its own distinctive theme music.