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Proceedings Paper

An earthworm-like robot using origami-ball structures
Author(s): Hongbin Fang; Yetong Zhang; K. W. Wang
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Paper Abstract

Earthworms possess extraordinary on-ground and underground mobility, which inspired researchers to mimic their morphology characteristics and locomotion mechanisms to develop crawling robots. One of the bottlenecks that constrain the development and wide-spread application of earthworm-like robots is the process of design, fabrication and assembly of the robot frameworks. Here we present a new earthworm-like robot design and prototype by exploring and utilizing origami ball structures. The origami ball is able to antagonistically output both axial and radial deformations, similar as an earthworm’s body segment. The origami folding techniques also introduce many advantages to the robot development, including precise and low cost fabrication and high customizability. Starting from a flat polymer film, we adopt laser machining technique to engrave the crease pattern and manually fold the patterned flat film into an origami ball. Coupling the ball with a servomotor-driven linkage yields a robot segment. Connecting six segments in series, we obtain an earthworm-like origami robot prototype. The prototype is tested in a tube to evaluate its locomotion performance. It shows that the robot could crawl effectively in the tube, manifesting the feasibility of the origami-based design. In addition, test results indicate that the robot’s locomotion could be tailored by employing different peristalsis-wave based gaits. The robot design and prototype reported in this paper could foster a new breed of crawling robots with simply design, fabrication, and assemble processes, and improved locomotion performance.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 April 2017
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10164, Active and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems 2017, 1016414 (11 April 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2258703
Show Author Affiliations
Hongbin Fang, Univ. of Michigan (United States)
Yetong Zhang, Univ. of Michigan (United States)
K. W. Wang, Univ. of Michigan (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10164:
Active and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems 2017
Gyuhae Park, Editor(s)

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