Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF), a company established to be an advanced American research center for future mobility, has developed its’s first product, Gita – a 22-pound, semi-autonomous, battery-powered, two-wheeled robot that can carry up to 40 pounds of your cargo, indoor or outdoors.
According to architect Greg Lynn, PFF’s chief creative officer, Gita can match the movement of its owner and has a zero turn radius, which means it can turn in the space it occupies. Lynn says Gita can reach speeds up to 22 mph, but it can also accelerate or decelerate to match the speed of the person it’s following.
“This idea of it [is to follow] a person pretty seamlessly so that people can have their hands free from needing to pull things or push things, and also that you can make decisions to … walk five blocks to pick up a case of wine or a gallon of milk, rather than getting in a car,” Lynn explains. “It’s all about accentuating human mobility. Instead of having people sit in a couch and order a burrito on their phone and have it fired through the window at them, it’ll get somebody to get up and go get it and throw it in this vehicle and then walk to the next place.”
Lynn says that Gita had to be made with composite materials in order to complete the project quickly and for the robot to achieve high performance. Lynn says when PFF did the first version of the Gita, the entire vehicle was 3-D printed at half scale. PFF and its team of engineers then scaled it up and 3-D printed another vehicle about a month later, but those were incredibly expensive and not very high strength, Lynn adds.
“I think the speed with which we could build working parts … as well as the need for stiffness and light weight is what really drove us towards [composites],” Lynn said.
Lynn says the composite parts were made through a wet layup vacuum process that consolidated unidirectional carbon fibers with an epoxy resin system. He adds that one of the reasons those materials and processes were selected was because of its collaboration with MarkForged, a Boston-based company that has done trailblazing work in composite 3-D printing.
“We have I think five, maybe six of the MarkForged [3-D printing] units. A couple that print continuous fiber and then the rest of them print with chopped filament,” says Lynn. “So on the Gita there I believe 78 mounts for censors and panels and ergonomic things like handles and stuff like that. All of those 78 mounts are also printed in, 3-D printed with carbon fiber reinforcement or carbon filament reinforcement. The epoxy resin was real compatible with how we mounted those things.”