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Research Papers

Whole Skin Locomotion Inspired by Amoeboid Motility Mechanisms

[+] Author and Article Information
Dennis W. Hong, Mark Ingram, Derek Lahr

Mechanical Engineering Department (0238), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061

J. Mechanisms Robotics 1(1), 011015 (Sep 05, 2008) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2976368 History: Received April 06, 2008; Revised July 01, 2008; Published September 05, 2008

In this paper, a locomotion mechanism for mobile robots inspired by how single celled organisms use cytoplasmic streaming to generate pseudopods for locomotion is presented. Called the whole skin locomotion, it works by way of an elongated toroid, which turns itself inside out in a single continuous motion, effectively generating the overall motion of the cytoplasmic streaming ectoplasmic tube in amoebae. With an elastic membrane or a mesh of links acting as its outer skin, the robot can easily squeeze between obstacles or under a collapsed ceiling and move forward using all of its contact surfaces for traction, even squeezing itself through holes of a diameter smaller than its nominal width. Therefore this motion is well suited for search and rescue robots that need to traverse over or under rubble, or for applications where a robot needs to enter into and maneuver around tight spaces such as for robotic endoscopes. This paper summarizes the many existing theories of amoeboid motility mechanisms and examines how these can be applied on a macroscale as a mobile robot locomotion concept, illustrating how biological principles can be used for developing novel robotic mechanisms. Five specific mechanisms are introduced, which could be implemented to such a robotic system. Descriptions of an early prototype and the preliminary experimental and finite element analysis results demonstrating the feasibility of the whole skin locomotion strategy are also presented, followed by a discussion of future work.

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Copyright © 2008 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Motility mechanism of a monopodial amoeba

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Figure 2

Motion generated by the rear contractile rings (1a, 2a, and 3a) and frontal expansile rings (1b, 2b, and 3b) for the concentric solid tube model

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Figure 3

An early WSL prototype using a statically balanced closed-loop tape spring mechanism with shape memory alloy actuators

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Figure 4

Construction of the pretensioned elastic skin fluid filled toroid model

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Figure 5

Energy states for two different positions

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Figure 6

Motion of the pretensioned elastic skin fluid filled toroid model

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Figure 7

Sequence of pictures of the locomotion of the pretensioned elastic skin model. (a) At 0.0 s, (b) at 0.30 s, and (c) at 0.46 s.

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Figure 8

Sequence of pictures of the tension cord actuated model locomotion

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Figure 9

Triangular element used for a 3D analysis

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Figure 10

Initial configuration of the unstressed WSL membrane

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Figure 11

Partially inflated membrane

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Figure 12

Fully inflated membrane

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Figure 13

Membrane under applied pressure and actuator loads exhibiting the characteristic tapered shape as compared to Fig. 1

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Figure 14

Cross sectional view of the membrane surface showing the relationship between the unactuated and actuated states

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