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Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots




Animals can incorporate large numbers of actuators because of the characteristics of muscles; whereas, robots cannot, as typical motors tend to be large, heavy, and inefficient. However, shape-memory alloys (SMA), materials that contract during heating because of change in their crystal structure, provide another option. SMA, though, is unidirectional and therefore requires an additional force to reset (extend) the actuator, which is typically provided by springs or antagonistic actuation. These strategies, however, tend to limit the actuator's work output and functionality as their force-displacement relationships typically produce increasing resistive force with limited variability. In contrast, magnetic springs-composed of permanent magnets, where the interaction force between magnets mimics a spring force-have much more variable force-displacement relationships and scale well with SMA. However, as of yet, no method for designing magnetic springs for SMA-actuators has been demonstrated. Therefore, in this paper, we present a new methodology to tailor magnetic springs to the characteristics of these actuators, with experimental results both for the device and robot-integrated SMA-actuators. We found magnetic building blocks, based on sets of permanent magnets, which are well-suited to SMAs and have the potential to incorporate features such as holding force, state transitioning, friction minimization, auto-alignment, and self-mounting. We show magnetic springs that vary by more than 3 N in 750 $\mu$m and two SMA-actuated devices that allow the MultiMo-Bat to reach heights of up to 4.5 m without, and 3.6 m with, integrated gliding airfoils. Our results demonstrate the potential of this methodology to add previously impossible functionality to smart material actuators. We anticipate this methodology will inspire broader consideration of the use of magnetic springs in miniature robots and further study of the potential of tailored magnetic springs throughout mechanical systems.

Author(s): Matthew A. Woodward and Metin Sitti
Journal: IEEE Transactions on Robotics
Volume: 35
Year: 2019

Department(s): Physical Intelligence
Bibtex Type: Article (article)
Paper Type: Journal

DOI: 10.1109/TRO.2019.2892811


  title = {Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots},
  author = {Woodward, Matthew A. and Sitti, Metin},
  journal = {IEEE Transactions on Robotics},
  volume = {35},
  year = {2019}