ReMBot: A reconfigurable, miniature, modular robot with soft connection mechanisms
Nature has been a valuable source of inspiration for engineers, leading to the development of diverse materials, mechanisms, and algorithms that have enhanced human life. One fascinating idea borrowed from nature is the collaborative work of ant colonies. Ants work together to accomplish tasks that are impossible to achieve individually, such as constructing bridges by connecting to one another. Researchers have been motivated by such examples to create reconfigurable robots that can perform various exciting tasks, such as climbing stairs, crossing gaps, moving objects, and assisting in furniture building, by moving as separate modules and docking to each other using different connection mechanisms. However, the connection mechanism remains a challenge. Many of the existing designs re-quire an actuator or a driving circuit which makes the control harder and limits the robot’s motion. This thesis presents ReMBot: A self-reconfigurable, miniature, modular robot with a soft connection mechanism. The robot comprises multiple modules, each equipped with backbones featuring permanent magnets. Using permanent magnets offers reconfigurability without requiring additional power, actuation, or a driving circuit while enhancing the robot’s compliance. The modules, including the body, electronics, actuators, c-shaped soft legs, and backbones with magnets, weigh 29.43 grams and have 82 mm x 60 mm x 14.7 mm dimensions. These module specifications, combined with the whole system design, allow ReMBot modules to execute path-tracking tasks, dock and undock, and sense the connection between modules. Their ability to connect and maintain a longer structure enables the ReMBot to climb obstacles higher than itself. Soft c-shaped legs enable modules to dock successfully by ensuring successful path-tracking tasks while they help them to move in different terrains like gravel, sand, or grass. The modules’ miniature structure, ease of manufacture, and affordability make them a suitable option for multiple use cases. The robot’s wireless communication capability makes it a strong contender for surveillance in confined spaces like collapsed buildings and nuclear sites, large areas like farmlands, and even planetary exploration missions.