With more and more research in the field of autonomous robotics, new methods of locomotion are coming on the scene at a rapid pace. Forget wheels and tracks, forget bi-, quad-, hexa- and octopods, and forget fancy rolling BB-8 clones. If you want to get a mini robot moving, maybe you should teach it to do the worm.
Neither the Gizmodo article nor the abstract of [David Zarrouk]’s paper gives too many details on the construction of this vermiform robot, but there are some clues to be gleaned from the video below. At the 1:41 mark we see the secret of the design – a long corkscrew in the center of the 3D-printed linkages.
Driven by a single motor, the linkages translate the screwing motion into an undulating wave, propelling the robot either forward or backward. Steering is provided by a non-driven tiller wheel up front; we could see a two-screw version of this robot using parallel tracks to provide directional control. [Zarrouk] et al have adapted the basic design in other ways, too – one waterproof version swims like an eel, and one tiny bot is the size of a pen. The latter has the potential for further miniaturization, with the aim of building autonomous endorobots for therapeutic applications. Neat stuff.
Thanks for the tip, [Itay]