German engineer invented a device to climb walls
There is a special family of lizards living on planet Earth: gecko lizards (Gekkonidae). They are rather small creatures, about 30 centimeters in length. They have very strong legs and long fingers that are all covered with corneous plates. Tiny hairs that cover these plates and sharp claws allow geckos to “sit” on a vertical surface. Furthermore, they can easily walk on ceilings.
There is another creature living in the minds of many people: Spiderman. Everybody knows about him after the success his comic book series and especially after the recent movie. Plenty of people are jealous of Spiderman when they see him crawling and climbing walls. He is a superhero, and superheroes can do it all.
Gecko lizards and Spiderman cannot be compared with each other. However, both of these creatures come into the picture when talking about an invention from German engineer Gerald Winkler. The invention is named after the lizard: it’s called a Gekkomat.
As a matter of fact, Gekkomats do not have anything in common with gecko lizards: there are no hairs, no claws, and no plates. A Gekkomat can be used to climb almost any vertical surface: wood, metal, smooth, uneven, sticky, and almost all other kinds of surfaces. They say that the German device allows one to climb walls rather quickly, although nothing is mentioned about the possibility of walking on a ceiling.
A Gekkomat consists of four disk-shaped suction cups that are linked to two tanks of compressed air. The tanks are strapped to the person’s back. The weight of the hand suction cups is four kilos each, whereas the suction cups for legs weigh five kilos each. The tank weighs eight kilos, so the total weight of a Gekkomat is nearly 30 kilos. This is the major drawback of the device.
"The principle of adherence is vacuum and friction," explained Winkler. The scientist did not give an explicit answer to the question about the technical features of his device. He just said that vacuum is produced owing to the compressed air in tanks that are strapped to a climber’s back. One tank is enough for one hour of climbing walls. Suction and friction creates a grip that is capable of holding up to 250 kilos of weight.
The climbing process is controlled by a computer. When the climber moves a suction cup to the next spot, he receives visual and audible signals for every grip. If no grip is possible within the period of two seconds, the device gives sounds an alarm.
The Gekkomat was unveiled by Gerald Winkler in May-June of the year 2001. It caused great interest of television companies. The BBC hired a stuntman to test the device on a glass wall of a skyscraper. After the test, the stuntman said that he liked the wall climber, although it was too heavy to carry. A girl named Danielle Burgio, a star of the TBS channel, tested the Gekkomat around the same period of time. She climbed a wall of a 25-storied office building in San-Diego. As she said, climbing walls is a good alternative to evening walks.
The world saw Winkler’s invention, had a bit of fun, and forgot about it. Yet, the German engineer wanted to find an efficient use for his invention. Gerald Winkler says that his Gekkomat is meant for sports, entertainment, construction, or window-washing. The Gekkomat, according to Winkler, is also a very valuable thing for military, police, and rescue services. Well, it could be used to rescue people in the case of emergencies in high-rise buildings. Winkler went to talk to German state officials about it. They told him to come back after ten years and they might decide to talk to him about it.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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