Bending continuous structures with SMAs: a novel robotic fish design

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Rossi, Claudio ; Colorado Montaño, Julián ; Coral Cuellar, William ; Barrientos Cruz, Antonio (2011)
  • Publisher: E.T.S.I. Industriales (UPM)
  • Journal: (issn: Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, ISSN 1748-3190, 2011-12, Vol. 6, No. 4)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/6/4/045005
  • Subject: Robótica e Informática Industrial

In this paper, we describe our research on bio-inspired locomotion systems using deformable structures and smart materials, concretely shape memory alloys (SMAs). These types of materials allow us to explore the possibility of building motor-less and gear-less robots. A swimming underwater fish-like robot has been developed whose movements are generated using SMAs. These actuators are suitable for bending the continuous backbone of the fish, which in turn causes a change in the curvature of the body. This type of structural arrangement is inspired by fish red muscles, which are mainly recruited during steady swimming for the bending of a flexible but nearly incompressible structure such as the fishbone. This paper reviews the design process of these bio-inspired structures, from the motivations and physiological inspiration to the mechatronics design, control and simulations, leading to actual experimental trials and results. The focus of this work is to present the mechanisms by which standard swimming patterns can be reproduced with the proposed design. Moreover, the performance of the SMA-based actuators’ control in terms of actuation speed and position accuracy is also addressed.
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