Distributed control of a segmented and shape memory alloy actuated biologically inspired robot

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


Today's robots are limited in mobility, flexibility, and scalability. Their rigid bodies prevent operation in many environments and often restrict movement to a twodimensional space. Most robotic vehicles cannot operate in a confined space or unstructured terrain and are incapable of climbing surfaces a fraction of their size. Their stiff bodies significantly reduce their performance and present a major weakness. The nextgeneration robot must be highly adaptable, flexible and capable of operating in many environments. A possible solution is to create a flexible and scalable segmented snake robot incorporating smart material for actuation. This project, in partnership with The Idaho National Laboratories (INL), plans to implement a snakeeelworm (SEW) design to meet the needs of the nextgeneration robot as a part the Visual Inspection Platform for Exploration and Research (VIPER) project. Snakeeelworm platforms have the dexterity to traverse highly unstructured amphibious and landbased terrain. To create this flexible and scalable structure this work proposes the implementation of Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) as the actuation device under distributed control of several embedded computer modules. This project found that a mechanical prototype can achieve snakelike locomotion while using SMAs under distributed control. A threesegment SMAactuated structure moves in an inchworm motion under a distributed control network consisting of several PowerPC single board computers (SBC).




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