Robotor: Machine? Or master sculptor?

This Italian robot chisel is shockingly great at sculpture
Robotor is able to recreate masterpieces of art with impressive accuracy. (

These days, we're constantly hearing about the remarkable things that robots can do. You might even think that after a while, we would become a little used to the things that machines can do.

But then something like Robotor comes along and we can't help but be amazed!

Robotor is a robot chisel. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound all that amazing just yet?

But this device can do a lot more than just hammer away rock. It is capable of carving marble with the delicacy and precision of a true master sculptor. In fact, give Robotor a chunk of marble, and it can recreate pretty much any masterpiece from history, and with next-to-no supervision.

Like we said, amazing!

The home of marble

Marble has been quarried, or removed, from the mountains around Carrara, Italy for thousands of years. (Wikimedia Commons)

The machine was created by two Italians: Filippo Tincolini and Giacomo Massari. These engineers are based in Carrara, Italy, which is an excellent place to have a robot that can chisel marble. That's because Carrara marble, a.k.a. Luna marble, has been quarried from the mountains surrounding this city since the days of the Roman Empire.

The Pantheon in Rome. Michelangelo's David. The Marble Arch in London. All of these and so many more works of art have been made with this marble.

Whether from Carrara or other parts of the world, marble is prized for its softness, its ability to resist cracking while being chiseled, and its luminous finish. Light actually penetrates several millimetres under the 'skin' of the rock before reflecting back out toward our eyes. That's what gives marble its glow its smooth appearance.

But it is also rock that requires an expert's touch to be turned into a masterpiece. So how does Robotor do it?

Self programming

Terpsichore is a famous sculpture by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. We wonder if Robotor might be able to reproduce it? (Wikimedia Commons)

There are several reasons for Robotor's success. For one, it is equipped with a variety of tools for the job. It has various tips for chiseling, drilling, and sanding, so it can either dig into the rock and break away pieces, or smooth over a surface to get the details exactly right. It can even use powerful jets of water to blast away debris and clean the marble.

But even having the right tools for the job doesn't matter much if you don't know how to use them. And this is where Robotor truly shines.

Its software is self programming. This means that the machine doesn't need a complete program to tell it how to sculpt a piece of art. It just needs to know what the final product should look like.

Then it can analyze the chunk of marble and identify every step that it must take to create the sculpture. Exactly where and how to cut. At what angle, using what tool and what kind of pressure. It can even detect anomalies (imperfections) in the rock and decide how to work around them to get the final result.

You can watch Robotor recreate a famous statue from 1811, Terpsichore by Antonia Canova, in the video below. Remarkable!

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