Spiderman Becomes Real

German engineer invented a device to climb the walls

There is a kind of lizards living on planet Earth, the gecko lizards (Gekkonidae). They are rather small creatures – about 30 centimeters long.  They have very strong digitate legs, long fingers that are all covered with corneous plates. Tiny hairs that cover those 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 a lot of people – a Spiderman.  Everybody knows about him after the success of comic books and especially after the movie. Plenty of people envy the Spiderman, when they see him  crawling and climbing walls. He is a superhero, superheroes can do it all.

Gecko lizards and Spiderman are not compared with each other. However, both of those creatures come into the picture, when  it goes 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, no plates. A Gekkomat is used for climbing almost any vertical surface: wood, metal, smooth, uneven, sticky, all kinds of surfaces. They say that a German device allows to do that rather quickly, although nothing is mentioned about a possibility to walk on a ceiling.

A Gekkomat consists of four so-called disk-shaped suction cups that are linked to two tanks of compressed air.  The tanks are strapped to a person’s back. The weight of hand cups is four kilos, whereas the ones for legs weigh five. A tank weighs  eight kilos, so the total weight of a Gekkomat is 25 or 30 kilos. This is the major drawback of the device.

"The principle of adherence is vacuum and friction," explained Winkler. The scientists 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 the walls. Suction and friction creates a grip that is capable of holding up to 250 kilos of weight.

The climbing process is controlled by computer. When a person moves a suction cup to the next spot, a climber gets visual and audible signals of every grip. If  no grip was possible to create within the period of two seconds, the device gives a sound of alarm.

The Gekkomat was  unveiled by Gerald Winkler in May-June of the year 2001.  It posed a great interest for television companies. The BBC hired a stuntman  to test the device on a glass wall of a skyscraper. When  the testing was over, the stuntman said that he liked the wall climber, although it was too heavy to carry. Girl named Danielle Burgio, TBS television channel star,  tested the Gekkomat too around the same period of time. She climbed a wall of a 25-storied office building in San-Diego.  As she said, climbing the walls  was a good alternative to evening walks.

The world saw Winkler’s invention, had 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 works. The Gekkomat, according to Winkler,  is also a very valuable thing for military, police and rescue purposes. Well,  it might really be used for rescuing people in case of emergency in high-rise buildings. Winkler went to talk to German state officials about it. They told him to come back in some ten years – maybe, they would decide something about it then.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka