Design, control, fabrication and maneuverability analysis of an untethered miniature soft robot

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Özcan, Onur
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Bilkent University
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As the robotics field grows, it searches for new potential workspaces to be interacting with. The conventional robotics, which involves utilization of robots made out of hard materials like metals and hard plastics, has helped humankind automatebmany different sorts of labor and such robots have been assisting the humans in various tasks. Nevertheless, some environments require very delicate interactions and adaptability of the robots to unstable elements and obstacles. A fairly new sub-field of robotics, soft robotics, arises as a very alluring area of research as it promises advancements in these particular premises beyond the conventional hard robotics. A major point of dispute arises around the term 'softness' as some specific robots achieve softness via the use of soft materials (specific polymers like PDMS) whereas although some others are made out of hard materials, they behave in a soft manner thanks to clever use of the mechanisms involved in them. The robot in this work is fully made out of soft structural materials and uses a exible circuit board. The electronics, actuators and several little connection parts are hard. The robot that is designed and constructed is a soft-hybrid robot that can be considered as a preliminary standpoint for autonomous robots to be operating in challenging working environments such as earthquake zones, pipelines, rough terrain military areas and so on. Miniature sized, it can be fitted with various sensors and communication devices in order to be used for search and rescue, surveillance and patrol missions. Its soft legs, body, and circuit enables it to overcome obstacles that conventional hard miniature robots tend to be tackled by The work I did involves mostly iterative sequences due to the challenges of modeling the soft components' behavior. Different leg mechanisms with different types of actuators are evaluated. Some of the evaluated mechanisms utilize a kinematic chain whereas the final version does not. These can be considered the novel aspects of the work done as virtually no examples in the literature use kinematic chains in soft robots. Thus, my work can be considered to be a multi-disciplinary study that involves design and fabrication of different soft locomotion mechanisms, body designs, and exible circuit boards. Finite element analyses are conducted in order to estimate differences between different leg mechanisms and soft joints. Finally, by the help of specific sensors and microcontrolling elements, the whole robot is controlled to maneuver in the desired behavior.

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