Biomimetics, Micro-design, Arctium minus et al Hook and Velcro – A PhD and a Virtual Textbook on Biological Attachment Mechanisms and their Mimicking

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Paper 4 Introduction

The REAL Introduction.

TITLE: “The application of early evolutionary theory and design laws to the reverse engineering of a 100 micron-radius by 20 micron thick long-shafted modular-hooked Universal Foot for frictional probabilistic attachment from Natural biological attachment mechanisms using scanning electro-deposition electron microscopy and Biomimetic principles.”


This is a review article of the three papers published in the Springer-Open journal, “The Journal of Robotics and Biomimetics” in a special issue on nano-/micro-robotics under the following titles:

  1. A biomimetic study of natural attachment mechanisms— Arctium minus part 1 [1]
  2. A biomimetic study of natural attachment mechanisms: imaging cellulose and chitin part 2 [2]
  3. Micro-design using frictional, hooked, attachment mechanisms: a biomimetic study of natural attachment mechanisms—Part 3 [3]

This research/design has been entered into the current Buckminster-Fuller Competition 2016 The title of part 3 above displays the underlying theory behind the exploration of the detail of papers 1 and 2. It accepts the viability of using cladistic methods to arrive at a scenario where a structure that has survived the “evolutionary sieve” is selected, to quote Nicklaus et al [4], over the use of Linnaeus or other classification methods which can be seen as insignificantly better when it comes to evolutionary manifestations of properties and/or structures. In other words all evolutionary models are all imperfect and so it is that the solution must indeed be imperfect too if it is to reflect the true nature of the Natural World i.e. testing is necessary before any firm conclusions can be reached. The use of the hook is a not very interesting thing, relatively. But it is also the ideal way to start with the designing of micro-sized (~100micron) objects because of the over-hang of the hook which is of the minimal complexity to test the programmer [see [4]] can be assembled into machine-like components for manufacture. Their origins are a little too old for one to understand their development since the designs are based in evolutionary theory, which is utilised in order to identify which structures are viable and of suitable length and strength to be of use in the manufacture of computer components to attach to PCB’s (printed circuit boards).


This work derives from a thesis proposal: “The Functional Ecology and Mechanical Properties of Biological Hooks in Nature” which led to a dispelling of the myth that an engineer cannot do a biological subject in that the researcher was the first person to use a confocal microscope by virtue of his imaging knowledge. It led to the theory that there is a way of being able to measure the proportional forces being used in the attachment of those mechanisms that could be measured and used to manufacture a hook that would indeed be of use, but not as expected. Of course the first view was that it was unsuitable to measure with current technology as it was then and now it has become possible only through the work of Hirt et al [5], by their work on SEM (scanning electrodeposition electron microscopy). Now a hook can be manufactured at a 1:1 scale to the specimen that is to be reverse engineered and that means that designers are on the brink of being able to make things that are of use, in the micro-realm (of the order of 10-100 microns in size). It all began with the discovery that it was possible to image one of the hooked probabilistic fasteners under laser light, namely the cellulose hook of burdock (Arctium minus). Therefore the work continued with the chitinous growths of the bee and the grasshopper (Apis mellifera and Omocestus viridulus) tarsii [2]. This encounter with luck was able to make true the theory that the use of the microscope could be for the imaging of a specimen and then the transfer of data directly to a layered manufacture device that was suitable, namely the SEM work of Hirt et al [5]. The point of this imaging was to use it to describe the group of probabilistic fasteners as a number, namely one for the hook, two for the attachment mechanism of the grasshopper O. viridulus with two hooks, and three for the double set of hooks, namely A. mellifera with a separating arolium which could make it all seem like they are intended to prove the theory right and not wrong. The chance of being on top of a specimen structure available without travelling is immense, as these were all available at the University of Bath which is set in the countryside of Western England. Particularly the burdock which is used (apparently) as the basis of Velcro but it is concluded this is without fundament and it seemed better to use it than to use the others (see below), as it will be shown, for the production of a new hook, a multi-use flat structure of multiple hooks that could be used without being entirely known, as per its value and knowledge. i.e. if it is to be the one to be imitated then it needs to be studied more now so that it can be manufactured.


Referring to the Figure of the burdock “head” or seedpod, the following is asked of the reader: “Do you think that it can be reproduced effectively as per the table below, from where I have shown it to be a better hook than those of the other four, namely the Agrimonia eupatoria, Circaea lutetiana, Galium aparine, and Geum urbanum” [6]?



The aim therefore, is to develop a Universal micro-robotic frictional probablistic attachment mechanism with a performance that can be modelled graphically, using Biomimetic principles. This is called a Universal Foot after the fact that a human foot is a frictional probabilistic attachment mechanism and because its performance is to be modelled graphically for design, performance, material, quality and other parameters, its universal qualities.


  1. Chris White says:

    Question – is this related to nano-technolgy, Bruce ?

  2. The Bioman says:

    Well Chris – if you go out to the woods to day and collect some burdock and look at the hook on an individual bract, it is within the visible scale. So definitely not. But we are in the realm that perhaps, watchmakers have dealt through the ages. Nano is already use in pharmaceuticals of course. No – this is for active mechanisms and parts thereof and i could name one for you now but it is commercially sensitive.

    • Chris White says:

      OK … thanks. I am beginning to see. I will need do some various re-reading. I do like the way you explain things like this.

      • The Bioman says:

        I hope that this will overview and splice it together – the thing is – early evolutionary theory is like looking at stuff like a child. No microscopes, really, just grouping like wiht like. Cladistics is unfashionable but still has its uses.

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