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Dan Hake's Thesis
IMITATING THE GRIPPING MECHANISM OF THE TOBACCO HORNWORM CATERPILLAR



Investigators: Dan Hake    Advisors: Chris Rogers (M.E. Dept.), Barry Trimmer (Bio. Dept.)

Biomimetics is a fairly new field of robotics that focuses on biologically inspired electro-mechanical systems. Most work has focused on imitating the locomotion of creatures like the cockroach and the lobster. Very little work, however, has been done on soft-bodied creatures like tobacco hornworm. Some research has been done in the development of robotic earthworms, and eels. The tobacco hornworm is unique not only for its soft-bodied locomotion, but also for its strong, yet passive, mode of gripping.


Movie of caterpillar walking | Movie of caterpillar gripping | Article on Dr. Trimmer's work

Mission/Goal:
To measure the proleg gripping forces of the tobacco hornworm. To then develop a robotic device that mimics the motion of the Tobacco hornworm's gripping motion and force.

Experiment Description:

Measuring the gripping forces: Preliminary trials will be run on an AMTI force table, to measure the breaking force it takes for the tobacco hornworm to release from of a known surface (most likely wood). More controlled trials will be run, once the basic setup is deemed reliable. As a compliment to these experiments, piezo-electric sensors are being used to measure the adduction forces of the proleg motion.

Designing the gripper: A series of experiments will be run to provide effective material selection for the artifical crochets. Once these crochets are fabricated, they will be integrated with the prototyped gripper mechanism. The prototyping of the gripping mechanism relies heavily on the type of actuator used, and how effectively it can reproduce the actual forces of the worm's prolegs. The design will most likely be iterated several times, to ensure that the actuator and its control system are effective.

Results: none so far


Related Literature:

Papers Related to Proleg Gripping Measurements:
BARTSCH, M.S., Federle, W., Full, R.J. and Kenny, T.W. (2003) Small Insect Measurements Using a Custom MEMS Force Sensor. Conf. On Solid State Sensors, Actuators, and Microsystems 1039-1042

FULL, R.J., Yamauchi, A. and Jindrich, D. L. (1995) Maximum Single Leg Force Production: Cockroaches Righting on Photoelastic Gelatin. J. exp. Biol. 198, 2441-2452

FULL, R.J. and AHN, A.N. (1995) Static Forces and Moments Generated in the Insect Leg: Comparison of a Three-Dimensional Musculo-Skeletal Computer Model with Experimental Measurements. J exp. Biol. 198, 1285-1298

Papers Related to Soft-Bodied Locomotion
FULL, R. J. (1997) Invertebrae Locomotor Systems. Handbook of Physiology, Section 13: Comparative Physiology, Vol. II.

HIROSE, S., Cave, P. and Goulden, C. (1993) Biologically Inspired Robots: Snake-like Locomotors and Manipulators. Oxford University Press

MANGAN, E. V., Kingsley, D. A., Quinn, R. D. and Chiel, H. J. (2002) Development of a Peristaltic Endoscope. IEEE ICRA 347-352

MENCIASSI, A. and Dario, P. (2003) Bio-Inspired Solutions for Locomotion in the Gastrointestinal Tract: Background and Perspectives.

MENCIASSI, A., Gorini, S., Pernorio, G. and Dario, P. A SMA Actuated Artificial Earthworm.

SFAKIOTAKIS, M. and Tsakris, D. P. (2004) A Simulation Environment for Undulatory Locomotion. ASM 154-159