Maryland Robotics Center,
Keywords: MEMS, NEMS, microbiotics
Summary:Research on mobile microrobots has been ongoing for the last 20 years, but the few robots that have walked have done so at slow speeds on smooth silicon wafers. However, ants can move at speeds over 40 body lengths/second on surfaces from picnic tables to front lawns. At larger scales, bio-inspired robots have taken advantage of a wide array of materials to provide passive mechanical properties used by insects to locomote effectively. We have developed a micro-molding process to incorporate materials with widely varying moduli and functionality along with traditional silicon MEMS for similar complexity in smaller packages. In addition, magnetic materials can be incorporated in this process and we have used press-fit, commercially available NdFeB magnets down to 250 um in size to provide untethered, off-board actuation of robotic mechanisms. Both magnetic and molded materials have been characterized to better model robot mechanisms using this process. In addition, magnetic actuation is used to characterize legged locomotion in a 25 mg 6-legged microrobot over flat and rough terrain with speeds demonstrated up to 5.9 body lengths/second.