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Bioinspir Biomim. 2007 Dec;2(4):S170-81. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

Inspiration, simulation and design for smart robot manipulators from the sucker actuation mechanism of cephalopods.

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  • 1BioMimetic and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, 2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA. fgrasso@brooklyn.cuny.edu


Octopus arms house 200-300 independently controlled suckers that can alternately afford an octopus fine manipulation of small objects and produce high adhesion forces on virtually any non-porous surface. Octopuses use their suckers to grasp, rotate and reposition soft objects (e.g., octopus eggs) without damaging them and to provide strong, reversible adhesion forces to anchor the octopus to hard substrates (e.g., rock) during wave surge. The biological 'design' of the sucker system is understood to be divided anatomically into three functional groups: the infundibulum that produces a surface seal that conforms to arbitrary surface geometry; the acetabulum that generates negative pressures for adhesion; and the extrinsic muscles that allow adhered surfaces to be rotated relative to the arm. The effector underlying these abilities is the muscular hydrostat. Guided by sensory input, the thousands of muscle fibers within the muscular hydrostats of the sucker act in coordination to provide stiffness or force when and where needed. The mechanical malleability of octopus suckers, the interdigitated arrangement of their muscle fibers and the flexible interconnections of its parts make direct studies of their control challenging. We developed a dynamic simulator (ABSAMS) that models the general functioning of muscular hydrostat systems built from assemblies of biologically constrained muscular hydrostat models. We report here on simulation studies of octopus-inspired and artificial suckers implemented in this system. These simulations reproduce aspects of octopus sucker performance and squid tentacle extension. Simulations run with these models using parameters from man-made actuators and materials can serve as tools for designing soft robotic implementations of man-made artificial suckers and soft manipulators.

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