Creation of a Modular Soft Robotic Fish Testing Platform

Yu Zhang, Robert K. Katzschmann

Research on the co-optimization of soft robotic design and control requires rapid means for real-world validation. Existing creation pipelines do not allow for the swift prototyping of soft robots to quickly test various design configurations and control policies. This work proposes a pipeline for rapid iterative design and fabrication of a miniaturized modular silicone-elastomer-based robotic fish. The modular design allows simple and rapid iterations of robotic fishes with varying configurations to assist current research efforts on the development of design optimization methods. The proposed robotic fish can serve as a standardized test platform on which performance metrics such as thrust and range of motion can be evaluated. We further show the design of an underwater evaluation setup capable of measuring input pressure, tail deformation, and thrust. Multiple robotic fish prototypes with varying stiffness and internal pneumatic chamber configurations are fabricated and experimentally evaluated. The presented flexible modular design principle for the robot and its evaluation platform unlocks the possibilities of more efficient soft robotic fish and will benefit research on design optimization and underwater exploration in the future.

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