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 Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-223
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Intelligent Robotics and Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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