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Research Papers

Development and Analysis of a Three-Dimensional Printed Miniature Walking Robot With Soft Joints and Links

[+] Author and Article Information
Anthony DeMario

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, CO 80523
e-mail: ademario@rams.colostate.edu

Jianguo Zhao

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, CO 80523
e-mail: Jianguo.Zhao@colostate.edu

Contributed by the Mechanisms and Robotics Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANISMS AND ROBOTICS. Manuscript received April 13, 2017; final manuscript received March 14, 2018; published online April 18, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Robert J. Wood.

J. Mechanisms Robotics 10(4), 041005 (Apr 18, 2018) (10 pages) Paper No: JMR-17-1110; doi: 10.1115/1.4039773 History: Received April 13, 2017; Revised March 14, 2018

Miniature robots have many applications ranging from military surveillance to search and rescue in disaster areas. Nevertheless, the fabrication of such robots has traditionally been labor-intensive and time-consuming. This paper proposes to directly leverage multimaterial 3D printing (MM3P) to fabricate centimeter-scale robots by utilizing soft materials to create not only soft joints to replace revolute joints but also soft links to replace rigid links. We demonstrate the capability of MM3P by creating a miniature, four-legged walking robot. Moreover, we leverage a three-spring rotational-prismatic-rotational (RPR) model to approximate the motion of soft joints or links, which is further utilized to numerically predict the motion of the leg mechanism with multiple soft joints and links. The accuracy of the proposed numerical method is validated with experimental results, and outperforms the results from using a psuedorigid-body (PRB) 1R model to approximate the motion of soft joints/links of the same mechanism. Meanwhile, a functional walking robot actuated by a single DC motor is demonstrated with a locomotion speed of 5.7 cm/s. We envision that the concept of employing both soft joints and links will inspire the design and realization of novel miniature mechanisms for a wide range of applications including robotics, deployable structures, or mechanical metamaterials. The proposed numerical method can also be readily applied to analyze other mechanisms with soft joints and links.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

The developed miniature walking robot, with a size of 49 × 38 × 25 mm and a weight of 14.5 g, is placed next to a U.S. penny

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Fig. 2

3D model of the miniature walking robot

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Fig. 3

The leg mechanism in the walking robot with generic dimension locations. Joint 1 is the driving joint. Joint 2 is a pin joint. Joints 3–7 are soft joints. Link D3 and D4 can be soft links.

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Fig. 5

Five consecutive laps of experimental data for the loaded and unloaded case for leg with only soft joints

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Fig. 6

Large deflection beam model showing variables and setup

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Fig. 7

Three-spring RPR joint model showing joint parameters and variables

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Fig. 8

Three spring RPR model to replace a single soft joint in the leg mechanism as an example. Note that only part of the leg mechanism is shown here.

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Fig. 9

An example using link 3 (D3) as well as joint 3 and 4 to show how the 1R model with ICs can be used for calculate the position of the foot given a drive angle.

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Fig. 10

Foot trajectories for leg with soft joints: RPR model versus PRB 1R model versus experimental path for the foot

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Fig. 11

Foot trajectories for leg with soft joints and links: RPR model versus PRB 1R model versus experimental path for the foot

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Fig. 12

Leg with only soft joints: sequential images of single leg motion with the trajectory overlaid onto the images

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Fig. 13

Leg with soft joints and links: sequential images of single leg motion with the trajectory overlaid onto the images

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Fig. 14

Sequential images of robot locomotion

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