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Soft robotic systems have applications in industrial, medical, and security applications. Many applications require these robots to be small and lightweight. One challenge in developing a soft robotic system is to drive multiple degrees-of-freedom (DOF) with few actuators, thereby reducing system size and weight. This paper presents the analysis and design of an inchworm-like mobile robot that consists of multiple, independent thermally activated joints but is driven by a single actuator. To realize control of this under-actuated system, a solder-based locking mechanism has been developed to selectively activate individual joints without requiring additional actuators. The design and performance analysis of a prototype mobile robot that is capable of inchworm-like translational and steering motion is described. The design of novel “feet” with anisotropic friction properties is also described.
Date of Conference: 3-7 May 2010