How Do I Choose the Best Robot Tracks?

T. Carrier

One major by-product of advanced technology is the proliferation of robots. These mechanical devices can perform a number of practical and entertainment-based tasks. Robot tracks represent a common method for giving robots mobility. Important considerations when choosing robot tracks include size and material composition. Appearance or specific user needs might prove useful as well.

The mobile ground robots used by police and the military often use traction motors and tracked wheels for locomotion.
The mobile ground robots used by police and the military often use traction motors and tracked wheels for locomotion.

Mechanical creations designed to perform tasks are robots. They may be operated via a remote control device or through self-powered means, such as installed computerized components. Further, robots that operate on land may either be fixed or mobile. Models that move must in turn have a means of transportation. Generally, the mobility components of a robot are comprised of either legs, wheels, or tracks.

Robot tracks should ideally resemble a tank’s bottom half. Most tracked robots thus contain two tracks that are in constant contact with the ground, as each one spans the entire side base. Therefore, weight distribution should be balanced on tracked robots, preventing slippage. An efficient track should therefore be able to move over a variety of surfaces, including uneven ones like sand.

Several factors can impact the mobility of robot tracks. For one, ideal tracks should be properly fitted to the robot. Too-large or too-small tracks will cause problems with balance and with making turns. Sturdier tracks should be used for heavy-load robots. Certain types of tracks can further increase mobility, such as wall tracks that enable the robot to stick to vertical surfaces.

The tread — or portion of the tracks that are in contact with a surface — will often wear down over time. Durable materials like roller chain can reduce some of these concerns and also lessen the possibility of breakage that exists with plastic or wood-based tracks. A less expensive, but still mostly hardy, option is bicycle chain. An efficient set of tracks will also have a strong drive sprocket, which is a metal wheel with teeth indentations.

Overall appearance might factor into a tracked robot as well. Since the devices do resemble tanks, some individuals prefer using tracks so that the robot can look tougher or more menacing. If such appearances are important, a robot maker might consider various colors, designs, or additives like small spikes that can enhance this appearance.

In some cases, robot tracks may also refer to stationary devices affixed to a robot. The robot moves along this device and performs tasks. These types of tracks — usually known as linear tracks — are useful for robots that mainly remain in one location but must be somewhat mobile. For example, these track types would be ideal for a robotic attachment that picks up objects along an assembly line.

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