Tandem actuation of legged locomotion and grasping manipulation in soft robots using magnetic fields

Venkatasubraman Kalpathy Venkiteswaran*, Danica Kristina Tan, Sarthak Misra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)


Untethered soft robots have the potential to impact a variety of applications, particularly if they are capable of controllable locomotion and dexterous manipulation. Magnetic fields can provide human-safe, contactless actuation, opening the gates to applications in confined spaces --- for example, in minimally invasive surgery. To translate these concepts into reality, soft robots are being developed with different capabilities, such as functional components to achieve motion and object manipulation. This paper investigates the tandem actuation of two separate functions (locomotion and grasping) through multi-legged soft robots with grippers, actuated by magnetic fields. The locomotion and grasping functions are activated separately by exploiting the difference in the response of the soft robots to the magnitude, frequency and direction of the actuating magnetic field. Two robots capable of performing controllable straight and turning motions are demonstrated: a millipede-inspired robot with legs moving in a rhythmic pattern, and a hexapod robot with six magnetic legs following an alternating tripod gait. Two types of grippers are developed: one inspired by prehensile tails and another similar to flowers or jellyfish. The various components are fabricated using a composite of silicone rubber with magnetic powder, and analyzed using quasi-static models and experimental results. Fully untethered locomotion of the robots and independent gripper actuation are illustrated through experiments. The maneuverability of the robots is proven through teleoperated steering experiments where the robots navigate through the workspace while avoiding obstacles. The ability of the robots to manipulate objects by operating in tandem with the grippers is demonstrated through multiple experiments, including pick-and-place tasks where the robots grasp and release cargo at specific locations when triggered using magnetic fields.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101023
Number of pages101023
JournalExtreme Mechanics Letters
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Soft robotics
  • Grasping manipulators
  • Biomimetic locomotion
  • Magnetic fields
  • Robotics


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