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Soft-bodied Worm-like Robots

The Inchworm Robotics Project
Born in March 2009, the Inchworm Robotics Project is part of the Tufts soft-robotics initiative aimed to explore biological control and locomotor patterns of soft-bodied animals.

Starting at a different angle, this project seeks to understand the simple inching movements employed by more than 25000 caterpillars species and many other worm-like animals. It is believed to be one of the simplest locomotor gaits ever evolved in nature. Although inching devices have been implemented in many different contexts, we are interested in how the soft material properties contribute to the overall locomotor stability and perhaps play a role in reducing the control parameters.

Actuating a combination of different rubber/foam materials with shape memory alloy springs (SMAs), we are able to produce autonomous inchworm robots of different sizes and mobility. By tweaking the material properties and introducing anisotropy, this physical modeling approach probes the minimum neural control required for sustaining and robust inching locomotion.