3D-printed ionic polymer-metal composite soft crawling robot

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)


This paper presents the design, fabrication, modeling, and performance characterization of a new 3D-printed ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) soft crawling robot. First, a precursor to an ionomeric polymer material (Nafion) is used to 3D print modular leg and body sections to create a caterpillar-like robot. Then, the printed components are activated, plated with electrodes, assembled together to create the robot from smart electroactive polymer material. The 3D-printed robot exploits the unique capabilities of IPMC materials; specifically, the actuation of the hydrated 3D-printed leg and body sections can be controlled by applying a voltage signal. In particular, the IPMC legs can grip and the body sections can expand and contract, allowing the robot to propel itself forward and backward. The newly-developed 3D-printing process and the robot design and modeling process are described. Experimental results are presented that show the prototype robot moving along a tube like a caterpillar or inchworm.



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