Do caterpillar treads offer any benefit on a hard surface?

In summary, a team of engineering students is designing a small robot and considering whether to use wheels or continuous tracks. The robot will be operating on a hard surface and will need to climb a 30 degree ramp. The physics of treads suggests that both options should work equally well, but opinions on robotics forums vary. It is suggested that track-layers may perform better on soft or uneven ground, while wheel drive may require softer suspension. Suggestions for modeling the forces involved with continuous tracks are welcome.
  • #1
I am working with a team of fellow engineering students to design and build a small (probably less than eight inches in all dimensions) robot. We have not yet decided whether to use wheels or continuous tracks, and I have spent some time today trying to understand the physics of treads.

The robot will be operating on a hard surface (probably either concrete or thin carpet). It will have to traverse a 30 degree ramp (up and down), made of wood. It will have to make several turns, but we are not concerned about turning slowly.

Climbing the ramp, if my physics is sound, will depend entirely on the force exerted by the wheels/tread on the ramp, and the coefficient of static friction between the wheels/treads and the ramp. If this is true, then wheels should climb the ramp just as easily as treads. However, comments on robotics forums across the Internet claim that treads climb better than wheels.

Who is right? Me, the Internet, neither, or both? Does anyone know have any suggestions for modelling the forces involved with a continuous track?

Thank you very much!
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  • #2
There are less drive components needed with track-layers as only one track drive sprocket needs to be driven on each side.

Track-layers operate better when on soft ground, or on uneven hard ground.

You need very soft suspension with wheel drive. With a two wheel drive vehicle you will have more problems transitioning between gradients as you can have a suspended drive wheel.
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1. What are caterpillar treads?

Caterpillar treads are a type of track system used on vehicles, such as tanks or bulldozers, that allow for smooth movement and traction on various surfaces.

2. Do caterpillar treads offer any benefits on a hard surface?

Yes, caterpillar treads offer several benefits on a hard surface. They provide better traction and stability compared to wheels, as well as distribute the weight of the vehicle evenly, reducing the impact on the surface and preventing sinking or sliding.

3. Are caterpillar treads more efficient than wheels on a hard surface?

It depends on the specific terrain and vehicle. Caterpillar treads may be more efficient on rough or uneven surfaces, while wheels may be more efficient on smooth, flat surfaces.

4. Can caterpillar treads damage a hard surface?

Caterpillar treads are designed to be durable and have a large surface area, which helps to distribute the weight of the vehicle. However, if the surface is not strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle, there is a possibility of damage.

5. Are there any disadvantages to using caterpillar treads on a hard surface?

One potential disadvantage is that caterpillar treads may create more noise and vibrations compared to wheels. They may also require more maintenance and are generally more expensive to replace. Additionally, they may not be suitable for all types of vehicles or terrains.

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