Concept, modeling and experimental characterization of the modulated friction inertial drive (MFID) locomotion principle: application to mobile microrobots

A mobile microrobot is defined as a robot with a size ranging from 1 in3 down to 100 µm3 and a motion range of at least several times the robot's length. Mobile microrobots have a great potential for a wide range of mid-term and long-term applications such as minimally invasive surgery, inspection, surveillance, monitoring and interaction with the microscale world. A systematic study of the state of the art of locomotion for mobile microrobots shows that there is a need for efficient locomotion solutions for mobile microrobots featuring several degrees of freedom (DOF). This thesis proposes and studies a new locomotion concept based on stepping motion considering a decoupling of the two essential functions of a locomotion principle: slip generation and slip variation. The proposed "Modulated Friction Inertial Drive" (MFID) principle is defined as a stepping locomotion principle in which slip is generated by the inertial effect of a symmetric, axial vibration, while the slip variation is obtained from an active modulation of the friction force. The decoupling of slip generation and slip variation also has lead to the introduction of the concept of a combination of on-board and off-board actuation. This concept allows for an optimal trade-off between robot simplicity and power consumption on the one hand and on-board motion control on the other hand. The stepping motion of a MFID actuator is studied in detail by means of simulation of a numeric model and experimental characterization of a linear MFID actuator. The experimental setup is driven by piezoelectric actuators that vibrate in axial direction in order to generate slip and in perpendicular direction in order to vary the contact force. After identification of the friction parameters a good match between simulation and experimental results is achieved. MFID motion velocity has shown to depend sinusoidally on the phase shift between axial and perpendicular vibration. Motion velocity also increases linearly with increasing vibration amplitudes and driving frequency. Two parameters characterizing the MFID stepping behavior have been introduced. The step efficiency ηstep expresses the efficiency with which the actuator is capable of transforming the axial vibration in net motion. The force ratio qF evaluates the ease with which slip is generated by comparing the maximum inertial force in axial direction to the minimum friction force. The suitability of the MFID principle for mobile microrobot locomotion has been demonstrated by the development and characterization of three locomotion modules with between 2 and 3 DOF. The microrobot prototypes are driven by piezoelectric and electrostatic comb drive actuators and feature a characteristic body length between 20 mm and 10 mm. Characterization results include fast locomotion velocities up to 3 mm/s for typical driving voltages of some tens of volts and driving frequencies ranging from some tens of Hz up to some kHz. Moreover, motion resolutions in the nanometer range and very low power consumption of some tens of µW have been demonstrated. The advantage of the concept of a combination of on-board and off-board actuation has been demonstrated by the on-board simplicity of two of the three prototypes. The prototypes have also demonstrated the major advantage of the MFID principle: resonance operation has shown to reduce the power consumption, reduce the driving voltage and allow for simple driving electronics. Finally, with the fabrication of 2 × 2 mm2 locomotion modules with 2 DOF, a first step towards the development of mm-sized mobile microrobots with on-board motion control is made.

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