Swallowable capsule robots which travel in body cavities to implement drug delivery, minimally invasive surgery, and diagnosis have provided great potential for medical applications. However, the space constraints of the internal environment and the size limitations of the robots are great challenges to practical application. To address the fundamental challenges of narrow body cavities, a different-frequency driven approach for multiple capsule robots with screw structure manipulated by external electromagnetic field is proposed in this paper. The multiple capsule robots are composed of driven permanent magnets, joint permanent magnets, and a screw body. The screw body generates a propulsive force in a fluidic environment. Moreover, robots can form new constructions via mutual docking and release. To provide manipulation guidelines for active locomotion, a dynamic model of axial propulsion and circumferential torque is established. The multiple start and step-out frequencies for multiple robots are defined theoretically. Moreover, the different-frequency driven approach based on geometrical parameters of screw structure and the overlap angles of magnetic polarities is proposed to drive multiple robots in an identical electromagnetic field. Finally, two capsule robots were prototyped and experiments in a narrow pipe were conducted to verify the different motions such as docking, release, and cooperative locomotion. The experimental results demonstrated the validity of the driven approach for multiple capsule robots in narrow body cavities.
Keywords: docking and release; multiple capsule robots; rotational electromagnetic field; screw structure.