Challenges for Effective MilliRobots

Plenary talk, IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation May 18, 2006, Orlando, FL
Prof. Ron Fearing
Dept. of EECS
Univ. of California, Berkeley

Centimeter-scale robots will create the opportunity to manipulate, sense and explore a wide range of environments with greatly reduced cost and expanded capabilities. In many applications, the capability of millirobots depends on mobility, multiplicity, and intelligence. For intelligence, sensing and computation capabilities are now almost available off the shelf. However, there are significant challenges for millirobots in creating all-terrain capable mobility, and low production costs for multiplicity. Although many man-made materials exceed natural materials in performance, surprisingly it has turned out that millirobots use such high loads that material strength is a significant limitation.

The mesoscopic range between MEMS and conventional robots provides a new domain with rich challenges. There are advantages to this size scale for novel low-cost fabrication methods, including rapid prototyping of millirobots from kits of parts. This talk will provide an overview for the key challenges in millirobots for materials, design, fabrication, actuation, control, sensing, and power, illustrated by examples in legged and winged millirobots made using carbon fiber.

Shakey and Rhex Mobile Robots

Shakey (1966)
Front View of Rhex on Fractal Terrain (2000)

References on Micromechanical Flying Insect and MicroGlider Projects

Animation of MFI Thorax (Quan Gan)

MFI Evolution 1999-2006

IR triggered left turn

IR triggered right turn

 * Design, Fabrication and Initial Results of a 2g Autonomous Glider
R.J. Wood, S. Avadhanula, E. Steltz, M. Seeman, J. Entwistle, A. Bachrach, G. Barrows, S. Sanders, and R.S. Fearing,
31st Annual Conference, IEEE Industrial Electronics Society 2005 Meeting, Raleigh North Carolina, Nov. 6-10, 2005.
 * Flexure Design Rules for Carbon Fiber Microrobotic Mechanisms,
S. Avadhanula and R.S. Fearing,
IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, Barcelona, April 2005.
 * Microrobotics using Composite Materials: the Micromechanical Flying Insect Thorax,
R.J. Wood, S. Avadhanula, and R.S. Fearing,
IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation 2003, Taipei, Taiwan.
 * Lift Force Improvements for the Micromechanical Flying Insect
S. Avadhanula, R. J. Wood, E. Steltz, J. Yan and R. S. Fearing
IEEE Int. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Oct 28-30, 2003, Las Vegas NV.

References on Microassembly and Rapid Prototyping

Micropart Assembly Movie

Semiconductor Strain Gauge Assembly Movie

 * Towards a 3g Crawling Robot through the Integration of Microrobot Technologies
R. Sahai, R.E. Groff, E. Steltz, M. Seeman, and R.S. Fearing
IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, Orlando, FL May 2006.
 * Carbon Fiber Components with Integrated Wiring for Millirobot Prototyping,
R. Sahai, E. Steltz, and R.S. Fearing,
IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, Barcelona, April 2005.
 * Automating Microassembly with Ortho-tweezers and Force Sensing,
J.A. Thompson and R.S. Fearing,
IROS 2001, Maui, HI, Oct. 29-Nov. 3, 2001.
 * Prototyping Millirobots using Dextrous Microassembly and Folding
E. Shimada, J.A. Thompson, J. Yan, R.J. Wood and R.S. Fearing,
Symposium on Microrobotics, ASME Int. Mechanical Engineering Cong. and Exp.,
DSC-Vol. 69-2, pp. 933-940, Nov. 5-10, 2000, Orlando, FL.