MEMS EARTHWORM: THE DESIGN AND TESTING OF A BIO-INSPIRED HIGH PRECISION, HIGH SPEED, LONG RANGE PERISTALTIC MICRO-MOTOR
This work examined the design, fabrication, and testing of a bio-mimetic MEMS earthworm crawler with external actuators. The micro-earthworm consisted of a passive mobile shuttle with two flexible diamond shaped segments; each segment was independently squeezed by a pair of stationary chevron-shaped thermal actuators. By applying a specific sequence of squeezes to the earthworm segments, the shuttle could be driven backwards or forwards. Unlike existing inchworm drives, which use separate clamping and thrusting motors, the earthworm motor applies only clamping forces and lateral thrust is produced by the shuttle’s compliant geometry. A study of existing crawler work was performed; to the author’s knowledge, this was the first micro-crawler to achieve both clamping force and lateral motion using the same actuators. The earthworm assembly was fabricated using the POLYMUMPs process, with planar dimensions of 400 µm wide by 800 µm long. The stationary earthworm motors operated within the range of 4-9 V, and 0-10 kHz; these motors provided a maximum shuttle range of motion of 350 µm (~half the size of the device), a maximum shuttle speed of 17,000 µm /s at 10 kHz, and a maximum DC shuttle force of 80 µN. The shuttle speed was found to vary linearly with both input voltage and input frequency; the shuttle force was found to vary linearly with actuator voltage. The tested design had higher force, range, and speed (per device footprint) than most other existing designs. Future work recommendations included the implementation of multiple motors and a closed loop control system to allow an indefinite range of motion, as well as the investigation of a two degree of freedom crawler.