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Soft structures in nature endow organisms across scales with the ability to drastically deform their bodies and exhibit complex behaviours while overcoming challenges in their environments. Inspired by microstructures found in the cell membranes of the Euglena family of microorganisms, which exhibit giant changes in shape during their characteristic euglenoid movement, this paper presents the design, fabrication and characterisation of bio-inspired deforming surfaces. The result is a surface of interconnected strips, that deforms in 2D and 3D due to simple shear between adjacent members. We fabricate flexible polymeric strips and demonstrate three different shapes arising out of the same actuation by imposing various constraints. We characterise the strips in terms of the force required to separate them and show that the bio-inspired cross section of these strips enables them to hold up to 8N of force with a meagre 0.5mm of material thickness, while still being flexible to deform. Further, the design of a soft robot module, with an actively deformable surface has been presented which replicates the mechanism of shape change seen in the Euglena. This work shows the potential for this new form of shape morphing surface in realising bio-mimetic soft robots exhibiting large changes in shape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8653848
Pages (from-to)2304-2309
Number of pages6
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number3
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Structured keywords

  • Tactile Action Perception


  • biologically-inspired robots
  • flexible robots
  • mechanism design
  • Soft robot materials and design


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