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  1. Abstract The deformability of soft material robots provides them with the ability to transform between complex shapes and forms. This unique ability facilitates Modular Soft Robots (MSoRos) to assemble and reconfigure into different configurations, e.g., planar and spherical. These topologies display widely different locomotion modes that are desirable to navigate different environments, e.g., crawling or rolling for these cases. This research presents topology design and optimization methodology of MSoRos capable of both homogeneous and heterogeneous reconfiguration in spherical and planar configurations. Homogeneous reconfiguration refers to the scenario when all the modules are identical, while the heterogeneous contains nonidentical modules. The sequential design approach uses a polyhedron (Archimedean or Platonic) as the base solid to define module characteristics. As the design processes involve nonlinear projections, the base polyhedron also dictates the type of reconfiguration—heterogeneous (Archimedean) or homogeneous (Platonic). Thereafter, it applies the polyhedron vertex alignment principle to ensure geometric alignment of the modules during reconfiguration. Planar and spherical distortion metrics are defined to quantify distortions due to reconfiguration. Subsequently, the optimal topology is obtained by minimizing a cost function that is a weighted sum of the two distortion metrics. The result is a set of MSoRos capable of distinct 1D andmore »2D planar configurations (both heterogeneous and homogeneous) and multiple 3D spherical configurations of varying radii (both heterogeneous and homogeneous). The methodology is validated on a MSoRo system based on the combination of a cuboctahedron (Archimedean solid) and a cube and an octahedron (Platonic solids).« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Soft robot modeling tends to prioritize soft robot dynamics in order to recover how they might behave. Soft robot design tends to focus on how to use compliant elements with actuation to effect certain canonical movement profiles. For soft robot locomotors, these profiles should lead to locomotion. Naturally, there is a gap between the emphasis of computational modeling and the needs of locomotion design. This paper proposes to consider modeling and computation efforts directed more toward understanding soft robot-world interactions with locomotion in mind. With a SMA-actuated inchworm as the soft robot to model and control, the framework is a combination of shape identification and geometric modeling that culminates in control equations of motion. When applied to the task of gait-based locomotion, the equations operate in a low dimensional shape-based gait space. Simulated and experimentally applied gaits for an inchworm model showed qualitatively similar outcomes, while the measured net displacement per gait cycle coincided within 9%. This result advances the idea that a shape-centric approach to soft robot modeling for control and locomotion may provide predictive locomotive models.
  3. Robustness, compactness, and portability of tensegrity robots make them suitable candidates for locomotion on unknown terrains. Despite these advantages, challenges remain relating to simplicity of fabrication and locomotion. The paper introduces a design solution for fabricating tensegrity robots of varying morphologies with modular components created using rapid prototyping techniques, including 3D printing and laser-cutting. % It explores different robot morphologies that attempt to balance structural complexity while facilitating smooth locomotion. The techniques are utilized to fabricate simple tensegrity structures, followed by tensegrity robots in icosahedron and half-circle arc morphologies. Locomotion strategies for such robots involve altering of the position of center-of-mass to induce `tip-over'. Furthermore, the design of curved links of tensegrity mechanisms facilitates continuous change in the point of contact (along the curve) as compared to piece-wise continuous in the traditional straight links (point contact) which induces impulse reaction forces during locomotion. The resulting two tensegrity robots - six-straight strut icosahedron and two half-circle arc morphology - achieve locomotion through internal mass-shifting utilizing the presented modular mass-shifting mechanism. The curve-link tensegrity robot demonstrates smooth locomotion along with folding-unfolding capability.