Design of Microscale Magnetic Tumbling Robots for Locomotion in Multiple Environments and Complex Terrains

Micromachines (Basel). 2018 Feb 3;9(2):68. doi: 10.3390/mi9020068.


This paper presents several variations of a microscale magnetic tumbling ( μ TUM) robot capable of traversing complex terrains in dry and wet environments. The robot is fabricated by photolithography techniques and consists of a polymeric body with two sections with embedded magnetic particles aligned at the ends and a middle nonmagnetic bridge section. The robot's footprint dimensions are 400 μ m × 800 μ m. Different end geometries are used to test the optimal conditions for low adhesion and increased dynamic response to an actuating external rotating magnetic field. When subjected to a magnetic field as low as 7 mT in dry conditions, this magnetic microrobot is able to operate with a tumbling locomotion mode and translate with speeds of over 60 body lengths/s (48 mm/s) in dry environments and up to 17 body lengths/s (13.6 mm/s) in wet environments. Two different tumbling modes were observed and depend on the alignment of the magnetic particles. A technique was devised to measure the magnetic particle alignment angle relative to the robot's geometry. Rotational frequency limits were observed experimentally, becoming more prohibitive as environment viscosity increases. The μ TUM's performance was studied when traversing inclined planes (up to 60°), showing promising climbing capabilities in both dry and wet conditions. Maximum open loop straight-line trajectory errors of less than 4% and 2% of the traversal distance in the vertical and horizontal directions, respectively, for the μ TUM were observed. Full directional control of μ TUM was demonstrated through the traversal of a P-shaped trajectory. Additionally, successful locomotion of the optimized μ TUM design over complex terrains was also achieved. By implementing machine vision control and/or embedding of payloads in the middle section of the robot, it is possible in the future to upgrade the current design with computer-optimized mobility through multiple environments and the ability to perform drug delivery tasks for biomedical applications.

Keywords: magnetic actuation; mobile microrobot; tumbling locomotion.