Site: Nagoya University
Department of Mechano-Informatics and Systems
Nagoya 464-01, Japan
Date Visited: October 1, 1993
Report Author: G.B. Hocker
Kazuhiro Kosuge Associate Professor
Fumihito Arai Research Associate
The JTEC panel's visit was to Professor Fukuda's group in the Laboratory of Robotics and Mechatronics in the Department of Mechano-Informatics and Systems in Nagoya University. The department has five research groups, each with a senior professor, an associate professor, and about two research associates. Professor Fukuda was travelling, so the panel was hosted by two other members of his research group, Professor Kazuhiro Kosuge and Dr. Fumihito Arai.
The basis for this group's research is large-scale robotics. The Nagoya area contains a variety of aerospace, machine, and robotics industries, and the laboratory has many collaborations with industry. This group's approach to microrobots is based on demonstrating and developing concepts on a large scale, then developing microrobotic versions. The group's general activities were reviewed, followed by a laboratory tour and a series of demonstrations. A video was presented describing the group's work on micromachines and mobile robots. This included: (1) a mobile robot for travel in pipes, based on giant magnetostrictive alloy actuators controlled by external magnetic fields (ultimately, the plan is to reduce the size of the robot for travel in blood vessels); (2) a multiple degree-of-freedom electrostatic actuator; (3) a photostrictive PLZT bimorph actuator controlled by UV light (a mobile robot based on this actuator was very slow due to friction, but moved more freely on an air table); (4) an underwater mobile robot propelled by a resonant piezoelectric actuator; and (5) a miniature walking robot propelled by a vibrating foot actuator. All of these devices represent only externally controlled propulsion schemes at this time, without built-in control or manipulation capability. All are in the size range of a few centimeters. A multiple degree-of-freedom catheter was demonstrated. This uses shape memory alloy actuators to flex the catheter for directional control, and was apparently first demonstrated at Olympus. The SMA material used has a transition temperature in the 40°C to 45°C range. The group is also working on a micropump for drug delivery. A small Class 1,000 clean room (about 5 x 5 meters) was shown.
A variety of large-scale robots were shown, including: (1) a self-organizing cellular robot (CEBOT) consisting of a variety of function cells that can be connected to suit a given task (its operation was demonstrated in a video); (2) cellular end effectors (manipulators for CEBOT arms, which can combine torque sensors, stereo TV, and optical sensor arrays on the arms); (3) a brachiation robot, using two arms to swing between overhead handholds (the arms include Murata piezogyros for angular position and rate information); and (4) image processing for plant cell classification and counting.
The visit concluded with discussions concerning MEMS and the panel's list of questions and issues. The major application area foreseen is medical, with automotive mentioned as another user. The researchers stated that force and tactile sensing are required, along with other sensors, for feedback control of robots. Calibration is a stated problem for many of these sensors; calibration in software is thought to be easier than in hardware. Also desired is wireless signal transmission to miniature robots. They are not sure if arrays of microactuators are practical, and are examining a wide variety of actuators, not all of which are microminiature. While the group is interested in silicon microfabrication and in LIGA, they expressed a strong need for true 3-D capabilities and so are looking at many alternative fabrication techniques. A desire was stated for 3-D CAD software, with a package apparently available from Seiko for ¥3,000,000.
. 1992 October 14-16. Nagoya, Japan.
Research Activities, October 1989 - December 1992, Laboratory of Robotics and Mechatronics, Department of Mechano-Informatics and Systems, Nagoya University.