Inspired by the exoskeletons of insects, we have developed a number of manufacturing methods for the fabrication of structures for attachment, protection, and sensing. This manufacturing paradigm is based on infrared laser machining of lamina and the bonding of layered structures. The structures have been integrated with an inexpensive palm-sized legged robot, the VelociRoACH [Haldane et al., 2013, “Animal-Inspired Design and Aerodynamic Stabilization of a Hexapedal Millirobot,” IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Karlsruhe, Germany, May 6–10, pp. 3279–3286]. We also present a methodology to design and fabricate folded robotic mechanisms, and have released an open-source robot, the OpenRoACH, as an example implementation of these techniques. We present new composite materials which enable the fabrication of stronger, larger scale smart composite microstructures (SCM) robots. We demonstrate how thermoforming can be used to manufacture protective structures resistant to water and capable of withstanding terminal velocity falls. A simple way to manufacture traction enhancing claws is demonstrated. An electronics layer can be incorporated into the robot structure, enabling the integration of distributed sensing. We present fabrication methods for binary and analog force sensing arrays, as well as a carbon nanotube (CNT) based strain sensor which can be fabricated in place. The presented manufacturing methods take advantage of low-cost, high accuracy two-dimensional fabrication processes which will enable low-cost mass production of robots integrated with mechanical linkages, an exoskeleton, and body and limb sensing.

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