Inspired by the movement of inchworms and earthworms, a team of engineers is developing soft robots to mimic these invertebrate animals for industry and prosthetic applications.
With the ability to extend their bodies up to nine times their own length, the roboworms being developed by a team of engineers from the University of Glasglow are a breakthrough in the field of soft robotics.
Unlike most robots that are rigid and mechanical in movement, these bio-inspired roboworms are capable of being flexible in deformable spaces. The ability of which is useful for applications in mining, construction, disaster relief operations, and prosthetics as the roboworms can reach places that otherwise would have been difficult to explore and squeeze into.
The roboworms being developed are 4.5 centimeters in length are have embedded strain sensors. Taking inspiration not only in movement but also physical attributes, the tubular roboworms are covered in stretchable Ecoflex using a graphite paste developed by the same team to resemble a wormlike skin.
To help with their movement, the roboworms have tiny magnets permanently built into each end of their bodies while the sensors help them expand and contract — ultimately, allowing them to move forward.
Leading the team behind the development of roboworms is Professor Ravinder Dahiya who shares how these soft robots can help the future of robotics. “Our bio-inspired robots are a step towards creating soft, flexible robot systems capable of the infinite directions of movement that nature has created in inchworms and earthworms.
The ability of soft robots like these to adapt to their surroundings through seamlessly embedded stretchable sensors could help autonomous robots more effectively navigate through even the most challenging environments.”, says Professor Dahiya.
True enough, one may see how roboworms can indeed help the advancement of robotics technology. With the flexibility and strength of roboworms, their technology can be an asset to robot-guided surgical procedures or in the improvement of making humanoid robots more lifelike in movement.