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This study presents a novel approach to the design of low-cost and energy-efficient hopping robots, which makes use of free vibration of an elastic curved beam. We found that a hopping robot could benefit from an elastic curved beam in many ways such as low manufacturing cost, light body weight and small energy dissipation in mechanical interactions. A challenging problem of this design strategy, however, lies in harnessing the mechanical dynamics of free vibration in the elastic curved beam: because the free vibration is the outcome of coupled mechanical dynamics between actuation and mechanical structures, it is not trivial to systematically design mechanical structures and control architectures for stable locomotion. From this perspective, this paper investigates a case study of simple hopping robot to identify the design principles of mechanics and control. We developed a hopping robot consisting of an elastic curved beam and a small rotating mass, which was then modeled and analyzed in simulation. The experimental results show that the robot is capable of exhibiting stable hopping gait patterns by using a small actuation with no sensory feedback owing to the intrinsic stability of coupled mechanical dynamics. Furthermore, an additional analysis shows that, by exploiting free vibration of the elastic curved beam, cost of transport of the proposed hopping locomotion can be in the same rage of animals' locomotion including human running.
Date of Conference: 3-7 July 2011