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Background Research & Initial De- Jumping Mechanism and Quick

Release System
The robot is designed to jump upon the release
of two springs initially compressed using a motor.
The overall structure can be split in two parts:
a foot, which supports the overall weight and is
the base for the two springs, and the upper body,
which houses the motor, battery control systems,
quick release mechanism and attachment for
the other end of the springs. To compress the
springs, the motor drives a spool that winds a
cable connected to the foot, which brings the upper body down. Torsional springs seemed most
efficient as they can be pre-loaded in order to increase energy storage and therefore the jumping
distance. A kill switch mechanism involving two
wires in contact that are pushed open when the
robot reaches its fully compressed state was first
considered to stop the motor. We later decided it
was more efficient to link the motor to the remote
In order to fully utilize the energy from the compressed springs, they need to be released as
quickly as possible. The use of a spool make
this operation difficult, as the motor and gearbox
create enough resistance for the cable to unwind
even when stopped. Therefore the quick release
mechanism has to disengage the spool from the
gearbox system. In order to minimise the amount
of control systems, and hence the weight of the
robot, we settled for a clutch mechanism. The
clutch is connected to the spool along the shaft.
Upon activation, a trigger mechanism disengages
the clutch, which allows the spool to break free
from any resistance, thus releasing the force exerted by the thread on the springs. The trigger
is activated by electromagnetic actuation: the
magnet on the trigger is placed in front of an EM
coil, that produces a repelling force when current
flows through it, resulting in the displacement of
the trigger.

he initial steps of this project consisted

of extensive research on existing jumping
robots and on available off the shelf electronics we could use. We dismantled a toy car to
better understand simple micro robotics. It used
a miniature pager motor and a small gearbox to
drive the rear axle, and employed a magnetic
steering mechanism. The use of magnetic actuation particularly inspired us for the design process.
Since the charging up and jump of the robot
have to be remotely induced, we decided that
a quickly-releasable spring loading system would
be most suitable. Size regulations greatly limit the
available power output we could get from a motor,
hence the decision to use springs. To ease the
design process, we sized the robot based on the
smallest servo (comprising a motor and a gearbox) we could acquire, the rest was built around it.

Modelling & Analysis

We modelled our robot as two masses connected
by a spring, which allowed us to predict the limiting friction between the foot and the ground at
different launch angles along with the impact of
drag and range predictions. We identified the optimum launch angle as being 42 , the minimum
friction coefficient to be 1.15, and the jumping
distance to be one meter (Figure 1).


y distance (m)







As mentioned before, the initial micro servo we

chose was the base for our design. Preliminary
energy calculations confirmed that the output
x distance (m)
torque we wished for could be obtained by powFigure 1: Range at Varying launch Angles (MAT- ering the motor with a 30mah single cell LiPo
battery. The motor control circuit was designed





using to stop the motor when the springs are

fully compressed after which a basic IT receiver
actuates the clutch to make the robot jump. To
activate the clutch, we built a simple IR receiver
which will output a low voltage when it senses
infrared at its corresponding frequency, which is
38kHz. This voltage difference across the EM coil
will produce a magnetic force that will repel the
magnet on the trigger and disengage the clutch.
The transmitter that controls this is built using a
555 timer which flashes the infrared LED 38 thousand times a second. This circuit was first tested
on a prototyping board before being wired onto a
printed circuit board.

the foot in order to maximise friction. Two supporting stainless steel rods were added on either
side of the robot to guide the jump and provide
structural integrity. The thread used to connect
the foot to the spool was made out of an aramids

Test Rig

Figure 3: CAD Rendering of the First Prototype

Due to our ambitious approach we wanted to test
some our systems prior to continuing with our
design. A simple test rig, shown in Figure 2,
allowed us to validate the electromagnetic clutch,
limiting torque, and control systems. The obtained results allowed us to re-design and re-size
some components, for example reprinting the
clutch with lesser but bigger teeth for increased
grip. Our conclusion was that all mechanisms
worked individually, and that at this stage we were
ready to proceed to the full assembly.
Figure 4: First Prototype
Slight modifications were made to accommodate
components sizing issues. The new locking section was now a separate piece, giving us more
space for the component assembly. The housing is inbuilt with the clutch and spool. The overall structure is strengthened against loading by
the springs and impact upon landing, and slightly
modified to better accommodate the gears and
their rotation. The fully assembled first prototype
is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 2: Testing Rig

Second Prototype

First Prototype

Two main issues arose when assembling the first

prototype. First of all, despite the gearbox, the
final output torque was too low to successfully
wind up the thread. Secondly, the electromagnetic clutch did not provide enough force to disengage the clutch. We therefore proceeded to a major redesign of the spring compression and quick

The final gearbox was composed of six stages,

the last one, which is used as a transmission gear
on the shaft was 3D printed. The output torque
obtained with this set-up was 0.2 kg/cm at 3.7V.
The housing was made out of two 3D printed
parts. A layer of silicon tape was placed beneath

release mechanism. The gearbox was replaced

by a pulley system, linking the foot and the upper half of the robot. A linear servo was added to
disengage the clutch, replacing the electromagnetic trigger. Figure 5 shows the modifications

fore impossible, the thread was released by burning it. As an alternative, the robot in Figure 6
(b) was built. It used the release of a bent carbon rod via remote controlled flaps. The motor
was not powerful enough to compress the carbon
rod, and despite the great performances (1.5 meter jumps on average), it could not be presented.

Table 1 provides a summary of the performance
of the robot on testing day. it is to be noted that
none of our two models complied with the rules
due to the aforementioned technical problems.
Figure 5: CAD rendering of the second prototype

Merit Function

Third Prototype
Torsional springs were replaced by compression
springs placed around the supporting rods, as
they are easier to compress. Housing was also
redesigned to allow for better assembly. It was
found that the thread we were using had a tendency to sliver, it was changed for a cotton thread
that was able to withstand the loading without
any problems. Motor and gearbox performances
were extremely satisfactory, and the robot was
successfully able to compress itself. However,
the quick release mechanism activation using linear servo did not function. Manual actuation of
the robot allowed the robot to jump forty centimetres.

Value Unit


Table 1: Test Day Results

Possible Improvements & Concluding Remarks

The main problems encountered throughout this

project result from the lack of investigation on
the applicability of certain components such as
the electromagnetic clutch. The division of the
jumping mechanism into distinct sub-mechanism
(spring compressing and quick release) made the
robot more complex to assemble. Basing control
systems on off-the shelf electronics increase the
risk of malfunction, making it more likely for the
whole robot to fail if more than one control system is used. Despite the great precision of the 3D
printer used, we noticed throughout the different
building stages that fitting all the components together was an issue, particularly for the gearbox.
A more adapted tool or material should be looked
into for designing gearboxes of this size.
For increased jumping performance, there is no
(a) Third
(b) Fourth
doubt that prototype 4, which relies on the quick
release of energy stored in a bent carbon rod ofFigure 6
fers the best option. However, finding a motor and
mechanism powerful enough to wind it up without
Upon testing the third prototype shown in Figure breaking the size limit is an issue. Lastly, more
6 (a), a problem with the linear servo which acts thorough CFD and structural analysis simulations
as the quick release mechanism occurred. Re- should be conducted for next iterations.
mote controlled actuation of the jump was there3

[1] Kovac, M. (2015). AE3-418 L3 Introduction Lecture. Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London.