Biomimetic leg design and passive dynamics of Dolomedes aquaticus
Spiders provide working models for agile, efficient miniature passive-dynamic robots. Joints are extended by haemoplymph (hydraulic) pressure and flexed by muscle-tendon systems. Muscle contraction in the prosoma leads to an increase in hydraulic pressure and subsequently leg extension. Analysis of body kinematics the New Zealand fishing spider, Dolomedes aquaticus indicates that elastic plates around the joints absorb energy from the ground reaction force when the force vector points backwards (i.e. would decelerate the spider’s body in the direction of locomotion) and release it to provide forward thrust as the leg swings backwards. In addition to improving energy efficiency, this mechanism improves stability by passively absorbing energy from unpredictable foot-ground impacts during locomotion on uneven terrain. These principles guided an iterative design methodology using a combination of 3D modelling software and 3D printing techniques. I compared and contrasted compliant joints made of a variety of plastic materials. The final 3D-printed spider leg prototype has a stiff ABS exoskeleton joined by a compliant polypropylene backbone. The entire structure envelopes a soft silicone pneumatic bladder. FEA analysis was used to determine the ideal shape and behavior of the pneumatic bladder to actuate the exoskeleton. The spider leg can be flexed and contracted depending on the input pressure. To laterally actuate this pneumatic spider leg I designed and developed a fabrication system that uses vacuum injection molding to produce an integrated mesh sleeve/elastomer pneumatic actuator. I designed an apparatus to measure pressure and contraction of silicone and latex pneumatic muscles when inflated. I analyzed the non-linear pressure-contraction relationships of silicone versus latex pneumatic muscles, and also derived force-contraction relationships. From efficiency studies, both media muscles proved to be inefficient and the measuring apparatus needs to be more robust to prevent leaking air. The fabrication process still offers the possibility of a quick and efficient method of creating pneumatic muscles. A spider-like robot that implements these pneumatic muscles and pneumatic leg design could be used to explore the efficiency and stability of passive dynamic legged locomotion in spider-like robots.
Advisor: Paulin, Michael
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Neuroscience
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; Robot; spider; biomechanics
Research Type: Thesis