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Wheeled Robot With Soft Rotary Motors Is 100-Percent Squishy

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The wheeled robot with soft rotary motors.

Researchers at Rutgers University have equipped a soft, squishy robot with silicone-based wheels with air-powered motors inside of them.

Credit: Rutgers University

Rutgers University researchers have put four silicone-based wheels with air-powered motors inside of them on a robot that is as soft as a Crocs shoe.

Rutgers professor Aaron Mazzeo's group adapted peristaltic motion into a rotary actuator, which is a motor that can turn continuously, powered only by pneumatic actuators inflating and deflating themselves in sequence.

Mazzeo says the robot may be complex, but it has no rigid components and has survived a drop test from eight times its height with no problems.

Completely soft, the robot works as its own suspension, making it good for adapting to rough terrain, and lacks electronics, making it suitable for use in water.

The robot looks like it can probably handle payload, and be scaled up or down significantly.

Mazzeo says the team used three-dimensionally-printed molds and soft lithography to build most of the robot, which suggests it is relatively inexpensive. He notes the robot might be appropriate for educational science or engineering kits, around children, animals, in hospitals, or anywhere else where squishy locomotion has appeal.

Mazzeo says the technology also potentially could be used in search and rescue missions and in space.

From IEEE Spectrum
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