A biorobotic adhesive disc for underwater hitchhiking inspired by the remora suckerfish

Remoras of the ray-finned fish family Echeneidae have the remarkable ability to attach to diverse marine animals using a highly modified dorsal fin that forms an adhesive disc, which enables hitchhiking on fast-swimming hosts despite high magnitudes of fluid shear. We present the design of a biologically analogous, multimaterial biomimetic remora disc based on detailed morphological and kinematic investigations of the slender sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates). We used multimaterial three-dimensional printing techniques to fabricate the main disc structure whose stiffness spans three orders of magnitude. To incorporate structures that mimic the functionality of the remora lamellae, we fabricated carbon fiber spinules (270 μm base diameter) using laser machining techniques and attached them to soft actuator–controlled lamellae. Our biomimetic prototype can attach to different surfaces and generate considerable pull-off force—up to 340 times the weight of the disc prototype. The rigid spinules and soft material overlaying the lamellae engage with the surface when rotated, just like the discs of live remoras. The biomimetic kinematics result in significantly enhanced frictional forces across the disc on substrates of different roughness. Using our prototype, we have designed an underwater robot capable of strong adhesion and hitchhiking on a variety of surfaces (including smooth, rough, and compliant surfaces, as well as shark skin). Our results demonstrate that there is promise for the development of high-performance bioinspired robotic systems that may be used in a number of applications based on an understanding of the adhesive mechanisms used by remoras.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

New soft robots really suck: Vacuum-powered systems empower diverse capabilities

We introduce a vacuum-powered soft pneumatic actuator (V-SPA) that leverages a single, shared vacuum power supply and enables complex soft robotic systems with multiple degrees of freedom (DoFs) and diverse functions. In addition to actuation, other utilities enabled by vacuum pressure include gripping and stiffening through granular media jamming, as well as direct suction adhesion to smooth surfaces, for manipulation or vertical fixation. We investigate the performance of the new actuator through direct characterization of a 3-DoF, plug-and-play V-SPA Module built from multiple V-SPAs and demonstrate the integration of different vacuum-enabled capabilities with a continuum-style robot platform outfitted with modular peripheral mechanisms. We show that these different vacuum-powered modules can be combined to achieve a variety of tasks—including multimodal locomotion, object manipulation, and stiffness tuning—to illustrate the utility and viability of vacuum as a singular alternative power source for soft pneumatic robots and not just a peripheral feature in itself. Our results highlight the effectiveness of V-SPAs in providing core soft robot capabilities and facilitating the consolidation of previously disparate subsystems for actuation and various specialized tasks, conducive to improving the compact design efficiency of larger, more complex multifunctional soft robotic systems.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content