Robots to date lack the robustness and performance of even the simplest animals when operating in unstructured environments. This observation has prompted an interest in biomimetic robots that take design inspiration from biology. However, even biomimetic designs are compromised by the complexity and fragility that result from using traditional engineering materials and manufacturing methods. We argue that biomimetic design must be combined with structures that mimic the way biological structures are composed, with embedded actuators and sensors and spatially-varied materials. This proposition is made possible by a layered-manufacturing technology called shape deposition manufacturing (SDM). We present a family of hexapedal robots whose functional biomimetic design is made possible by SDM’s unique capabilities and whose fast (over four body-lengths per second) and robust (traversal over hip-height obstacles) performance begins to compare to that seen in nature.We describe the design and fabrication of the robots and we present the results of experiments that focus on their performance and locomotion dynamics.
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