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Bioinspir Biomim. 2012 Dec;7(4):046006. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/7/4/046006. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Modeling of caterpillar crawl using novel tensegrity structures.

Author information

  • 1School of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. omerorki@tau.ac.il


Caterpillars are soft-bodied animals. They have a relatively simple nervous system, and yet are capable of exhibiting complex movement. This paper presents a 2D caterpillar simulation which mimics caterpillar locomotion using Assur tensegrity structures. Tensegrity structures are structures composed of a set of elements always under compression and a set of elements always under tension. Assur tensegrities are a novel sub-group of tensegrity structures. In the model, each caterpillar segment is represented by a 2D Assur tensegrity structure called a triad. The mechanical structure and the control scheme of the model are inspired by the biological caterpillar. The unique engineering properties of Assur tensegrity structures, together with the suggested control scheme, provide the model with a controllable degree of softness-each segment can be either soft or rigid. The model exhibits several characteristics which are analogous to those of the biological caterpillar. One such characteristic is that the internal pressure of the caterpillar is not a function of its size. During growth, body mass is increased 10 000-fold, while internal pressure remains constant. In the same way, the model is able to maintain near constant internal forces regardless of size. The research also suggests that caterpillars do not invest considerably more energy while crawling than while resting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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