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Sensors (Basel). 2012 Dec 6;12(12):16732-58. doi: 10.3390/s121216732.

A novel soft biomimetic microrobot with two motion attitudes.

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Faculty of Engineering, Kagawa University, 2217-20 Hayashi-cho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 761-0396, Japan.


 A variety of microrobots have commonly been used in the fields of biomedical engineering and underwater operations during the last few years. Thanks to their compact structure, low driving power, and simple control systems, microrobots can complete a variety of underwater tasks, even in limited spaces. To accomplish our objectives, we previously designed several bio-inspired underwater microrobots with compact structure, flexibility, and multi-functionality, using ionic polymer metal composite (IPMC) actuators. To implement high-position precision for IPMC legs, in the present research, we proposed an electromechanical model of an IPMC actuator and analysed the deformation and actuating force of an equivalent IPMC cantilever beam, which could be used to design biomimetic legs, fingers, or fins for an underwater microrobot. We then evaluated the tip displacement of an IPMC actuator experimentally. The experimental deflections fit the theoretical values very well when the driving frequency was larger than 1 Hz. To realise the necessary multi-functionality for adapting to complex underwater environments, we introduced a walking biomimetic microrobot with two kinds of motion attitudes: a lying state and a standing state. The microrobot uses eleven IPMC actuators to move and two shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators to change its motion attitude. In the lying state, the microrobot implements stick-insect-inspired walking/rotating motion, fish-like swimming motion, horizontal grasping motion, and floating motion. In the standing state, it implements inchworm-inspired crawling motion in two horizontal directions and grasping motion in the vertical direction. We constructed a prototype of this biomimetic microrobot and evaluated its walking, rotating, and floating speeds experimentally. The experimental results indicated that the robot could attain a maximum walking speed of 3.6 mm/s, a maximum rotational speed of 9°/s, and a maximum floating speed of 7.14 mm/s. Obstacle-avoidance and swimming experiments were also carried out to demonstrate its multi-functionality.

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