Design and characterization of a miniature free-swimming robotic fish based on multi-material 3D printing

  • Paul Phamduy
  • Miguel Angel Vazquez
  • Changsu Kim
  • Violet Mwaffo
  • Alessandro Rizzo
  • Maurizio PorfiriEmail author
Regular Paper


Research in animal behavior is increasingly benefiting from the field of robotics, whereby robots are being continuously integrated in a number of hypothesis-driven studies. A variety of robotic fish have been designed after the morphophysiology of live fish to study social behavior. Of the current design factors limiting the mimicry of live fish, size is a critical drawback, with available robotic fish generally exceeding the size of popular fish species for laboratory experiments. Here, we present the design and testing of a novel free-swimming miniature robotic fish for animal-robot studies. The robotic fish capitalizes on recent advances in multi-material three-dimensional printing that afford the integration of a range of material properties in a single print task. This capability has been leveraged in a novel design of a robotic fish, where waterproofing and kinematic functionalities are incorporated in the robotic fish. Particle image velocimetry is leveraged to systematically examine thrust production, and independent experiments are conducted in a water tunnel to evaluate drag. This information is utilized to aid the study of the forward locomotion of the robotic fish, through reduced-order modeling and experiments. Swimming efficiency and turning maneuverability is demonstrated through target experiments. This robotic fish prototype is envisaged as a tool for animal-robot interaction studies, overcoming size limitations of current design.


Biologically-inspired robots Soft robots Multi-material printing Animal-robot interaction 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DRL-1200911, CMMI-1433670, and OISE-1545857. The work of V. Mwaffo was supported in part by a Mitsui USA Foundation scholarship. Alessandro Rizzo acknowledges the support of Compagnia di San Paolo, Italy. The authors would like to thank Gabrielle Cord-Cruz for assisting with the experimental swimming tests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Phamduy
    • 1
  • Miguel Angel Vazquez
    • 1
  • Changsu Kim
    • 1
  • Violet Mwaffo
    • 1
  • Alessandro Rizzo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Maurizio Porfiri
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringNew York University Tandon School of Engineering, Six MetroTech CenterBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Office of InnovationNew York University Tandon School of Engineering, Six MetroTech CenterBrooklynUSA
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Automatica e InformaticaPolitecnico di TorinoTurinItaly

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