X-TRACS (Exponentially Scalable, Self-Configuring Telerobotic Architectural Systems) builds on the concept of TRACS by extending the design principles of the post-tensioned concrete rail-support beam to structural elements or "struts" of a reconfigurable space frame lattice.
Space frame lattices can comprise beams or, by attaching multiple beams side-by-side, form planar structures (walls, ceiling and floors of buildings, for example). Attaching multiple planar structures in layers allows the construction of three-dimensional solid forms. X-TRACS lattice struts connect at nodes designed to allow their individual addition or removal to and from the space frame. This permits the structure’s strength and weight to be varied to suit particular applications as well as to form cavities and pathways in three-dimensional space frames. The US patent database contains many such novel building materials and assembly methods that provide improved strength-to-weight ratio compared to industry-dominating approaches (wood framing, steel I-beams, etc.). Oftentimes, however, the labor cost required to produce more complex structural members such as space frames and cable-stayed masts exceed the benefits gained. Post-tensioned concrete beams, increasingly used in commercial construction, will likely find increased residential use once telerobotic assembly principles are applied to their construction.
Assembly and reconfiguration of X-TRACS space frames can be performed using the autonomous control mode of a telerobotic system. Quadruped telerobots, such as the one shown below, can be used with special grippers at the ends of the legs to grasp space frame lattice struts and nodes during locomotion. Rails can also be attached to the space frame to facilitate efficient movement of wheeled, tracked or trolleyed telerobots or freight cars. Infrastructure built with X-TRACS could theoretically be deployed as fast as foundations can be set in the ground.
QM-1 (quadruped mobilizer)
This robotic device was conceived as a key element of a self-configuring structural system. Developed by Robert Nelson, Dr. Zaigham Tahir and Brad Wolf, QM-1 won first place in Mechanical Engineering at the 1990 UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) Senior Design Competition. The team was also presented with an Outstanding Achievement Award by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).
X-TRACS was conceived to be used in factory, business and residential spaces to help deal with current and future challenges facing societal infrastructure in the US and abroad. The process for producing Cedric units and X-TRACS structural and manufacturing elements well be exponentially-scalable (see Technology).