This article describes a class of robots—“arthrobots”—inspired, in part, by the musculoskeletal system of arthropods (spiders and insects, inter alia). Arthrobots combine mechanical compliance, lightweight and simple construction, and inexpensive yet scalable design. An exoskeleton, constructed from thin organic polymeric tubes, provides lightweight structural support. Pneumatic joints modeled after the hydrostatic joints of spiders provide actuation and inherent mechanical compliance to external forces. An inflatable elastomeric tube (a “balloon”) enables active extension of a limb; an opposing elastic tendon enables passive retraction. A variety of robots constructed from these structural elements demonstrate (i) crawling with one or two limbs, (ii) walking with four or six limbs (including an insect-like triangular gait), (iii) walking with eight limbs, or (iv) floating and rowing on the surface of water. Arthrobots are simple to fabricate and are able to operate safely in contact with humans.
- Journal Article