Aerospace Engineering Grad Student Wins SPIE Student Paper Award

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Third-year Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. student Frank Cianciarulo received second place in SPIE’s Craig F. Bohren Best Student Presentation Awards held during the SPIE Smart Structures and Nondestructive Evaluation: Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication XIII Conference held March 12-16 in Long Beach, Calif.

Cianciarulo’s paper, “Analysis of an anchoring muscle for pipe crawling robot,” explored the radial behavior of pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs).

PAMs consist of an elastomeric bladder wrapped in a Kevlar braid, and when they are inflated, PAMs expand radially and contract axially, producing large axial forces. Although the axial behavior of PAMs is well understood, research on the radial behavior is lacking.

Radial expansion in large diameter (over 2 inches) PAMs has recently been used in worm-like robots to create anchoring forces that allow for a peristaltic wave which creates locomotion through acrylic pipes. By radially expanding, the PAM presses itself into the pipe, creating an anchor point. The previously anchored PAM then deflates, which propels the robot forward.

Modeling of the radial expansion forces and anchoring was desired to determine the pressurization required for proper anchoring before slipping occurs due to the combined robot and payload weight.

To explore this, Cianciarulo’s modeling was performed using a force balance approach to capture the effects that bladder strain and applied axial load has on the anchoring force, and radial expansion testing was performed to validate the model. Force due to anchoring was recorded using force transducers attached to sections of aluminum pipe using an MTS servo-hydraulic testing machine, and data from the test was compared to the predicted anchoring force for validation. A unified model of the axial and radial behavior was developed to fully characterize the behavior of the PAM during operation.

Cianciarulo graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2016. Following graduation, he worked as a structural engineer in the Advance Composite Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division from 2016 to 2020. His current research focuses on fluidic artificial muscles and their uses in bio-inspired soft space robotics.

The Craig F. Bohren Best Student Presentation Award is awarded in honor of Craig F. Bohren, who is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University and an expert on atmospheric optics. Cash prizes are awarded to first, second, and third place winners.

SPIE (formerly the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers, later the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers) is an international not-for-profit professional society focused on supporting and advancing the international optics and photonics community.

Published March 23, 2023