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Science Website Calculates Price of Building Gundam

posted on 2008-01-11 14:06 EST
Giant combat robot estimated to cost over 79.5 billion yen (US$730 million)

Not-so-Daily Link of the Day: SciencePortal.jp, a website run by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), has released a report estimating how much it would cost to build a 18-meter-tall (59-feet-tall), functioning "Morph-X" combat robot similar to those used in the Gundam anime franchise. The estimate assumes that the robot would only have the ability to walk, not fly, and that it would not be equipped with any weaponry. The Japanese government funds about 90% of JST's budget, with the remaining coming from the agency's own operational income.

As translated by the PinkTentacle.com website, the report assumes that the robot would use an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, seven General Electric gas turbine engines (the same engines used in the US$52-million Apache attack helicopters), and 30 400-kilowatt motors (12 in the lower body, 2 in the torso, 14 in the arms, and 2 in the neck). Instead of the fictional Gundarium alloy used in the anime, it would be covered in an aluminum alloy. The report calculates the total cost of the Gundam at 79 billion, 521 million yen (about US$729,700,000). This compares to a price tag of US$187 million for one of the U.S. Air Force's F-22 fighters, US$800 million for an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (operated by the U.S. and Japanese navies), or US$2.2 billion for a single B-2 bomber.

The report further points out that a Gundam-sized robot would be 9.5 times taller than an average human, but take up 850 times more volume. Not only would it weigh 43.4 tons according to the fictional anime statistics, but it would apply 1.2 to 1.4 times that weight in ground pressure when it walks or runs. Unless it was shaped like a pyramid, it would sink into almost any ground that would normally support a human. Instead, JST puts forth a more viable multi-legged design called the Hallucigenia 01, and streams a demonstration video of this design.

Hypothetical Gundam Morph-X Estimate Sheet

Materials Unit Cost Quantity Estimated Cost in Yen Estimated Cost in US$
Aluminum alloy (honeycomb structure) Y200,000 43,875 Y8,775,000,000 US$80,520,000
Processing and manufacturing costs Y26,325,000,000 US$241,560,000
Main computer (IBM) Y171,000,000 1 Y171,000,000 US$1,570,000
Power (Gas Turbine Engines, GE) Y5,700,000,000 7 Y39,900,000,000 US$366,000,000
Motors (Superconducting motors, IHI) Y28,000,000 30 Y840,000,000 US$7,700,000
Motor Drivers Y28,000,000 30 Y840,000,000 US$7,700,000
Sensors Y100,000,000 US$900,000
Cockpit Y50,000,000 US$500,000
Reduction Gears Y84,000,000 30 Y2,520,000,000 US$23,100,000
Total Y79,521,000,000 US$729,700,000

Images of 6/10-scale Gundam balloon float at C3 Event, 1/1-scale Gundam real-scale bust model at Bandai Museum © Sotsu, Sunrise


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