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Biological vessels are characterized by their substantial compliance and low friction that present a major challenge for crawling robots for minimally invasive medical procedures. Quite a number of studies considered the design and construction of crawling robots; however, very few focused on the interaction between the robots and the flexible environment. In a previous study, we derived the analytical efficiency of worm locomotion as a function of the number of cells, friction coefficients, normal forces, and local (contact) tangential compliance. In this paper, we introduce the structural effects of environment compliance, generalize our previous analysis to include dynamic and static coefficients of friction, determine the conditions of locomotion as function of the external resisting forces, and experimentally validate our previous and newly obtained theoretical results. Our experimental setup consists of worm robot prototypes, flexible interfaces with known compliance and a Vicon motion capture system to measure the robot positioning. Separate experiments were conducted to measure the tangential compliance of the contact interface that is required for computing the analytical efficiency. The validation experiments were performed for both types of compliant conditions, local and structural, and the results are shown to be in clear match with the theoretical predictions. Specifically, the convergence of the tangential deflections to an arithmetic series and the partial and overall loss of locomotion verify the theoretical predictions.
Date of Publication: April 2012