Conventional mobile robots have difficulty navigating highly unstructured spaces such as caves and forests. In these environments, a highly extendable limb could be useful for deploying hooks to climb over terrain, or for reaching hard-to-access sites for sample collection. This article details a new form of a multimodal mobile robot that utilizes a novel tape spring limb named EEMMMa (elastic extending mechanism for mobility and manipulation). Its innovative U-shaped tape structure allows it to handle loads in tension as well as compression. It can also bend using mechanical multiplexing for a lightweight and compact design that is well suited for mobile robots. For mobility, the limb can extend prismatically to deploy grappling hook anchors to suspend and transport the main body, or even serve as legs. For manipulation, the limb can morph its shape to bend around or over obstacles, allowing it to retrieve distant objects or position cameras around corners. The EEMMMa-1 prototype detailed in this article successfully demonstrates climbing ladders and shelves in 1.5 body lengths per second, and can bend up to 100 deg. A simplified model of the bending kinematics is developed and analyzed. This article concludes by detailing future EEMMMa applications and theories to strengthen the model in future studies.
Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics Open Issues