Ground reaction force (GRF) is a significant factor for the evaluation of animal locomotion. Recently, micro force plates have been implemented as a GRF measurement method for tiny insects. Previous micro force plates were highly sensitive, but fragile and laborious to fabricate, because of the use of strain-sensing elements. Here, we applied high-resolution 3D printing and a noncontact displacement meter to a micro force plate for a fruit fly. 3D printing is suitable for easier, reproducible, and complex three-dimensional fabrication so that a force plate structure, which consists of a plate and four supporting 3D microsprings, is developed as an integrated unit. By detecting the displacement of the plate centre externally, when a fruit fly lands on the plate surface, the vertical GRF of the whole device is calculated via the spring constant. The force plate is sufficiently tough due to the supporting 3D microsprings. The spring constant of the microspring is designed to be approximately 5.98 N m−1, which enables a high-resolution external laser displacement meter to realize a force resolution of less than 1/50 of the body weight of a fruit fly. Providing that the four springs have the same spring constant and the displacement meter aligns at the plate centre, in principle, there is no positional error when converting from displacement to force. However, fabrication error does lead to spring constant differences. Here, we theoretically and experimentally determined the measurement point of the displacement sensor where the positional error caused by the difference in the spring constant of the four microsprings is compensated for. It was confirmed in the experiment that the calibration process improved the position error to be within ±1.5%. Finally, we demonstrated the GRF measurement of a fruit fly. The average GRF was 6.5 μN, which was equal to the weight of a fruit fly. Our proposed device can help evaluate the biomechanics of tiny insects.
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