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Pneumatic Networks for Soft Robotics that Actuate Rapidly

By Bobak Mosadegh, Panagiotis Polygerinos, Christoph Keplinger, Sophia W Wennstedt, Robert F. Shepherd, Unmukt Gupta, Jongmin Shim, Katia Bertoldi, Conor J Walsh and George McClelland Whitesides


Soft robots actuated by pressurization and inflation of a pneumatic network (a “pneu-net”) of small channels in elastomeric materials are appealing for their ability to produce sophisticated motions with simple controls. Although current designs of pneu-nets achieve motion with large amplitudes, they do so relatively slowly (that is, over seconds). This paper describes a new design for pneu-nets that reduces the amount of gas that must be transported for inflation of the pneu-net, and thus increases its speed of actuation. A simple actuator can bend from a linear shape to a quasi-circular shape in 50 milliseconds when pressurized at ΔP = 345 kPa. At high rates of pressurization and inflation, the path along which the actuator bends depends on this rate. When inflated fully, the channels and chambers of this new pneu-net design experience only one-tenth the change in volume of that required for a motion of equal amplitude using the previous design. This small change in volume requires comparably low levels of strain in the material at maximum amplitudes of actuation, and commensurately low rates of fatigue and failure. This actuator can operate over a million cycles without significant degradation of performance. This design for soft robotic actuators combines high rates of actuation with high reliability of the actuator, and opens new areas of application for them.Chemistry and Chemical Biolog

Publisher: 'Wiley'
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.1002/adfm.201303288.
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