Design, Modeling and Control of a 3D Printed Monolithic Soft Robotic Finger with Embedded Pneumatic Sensing Chambers
IEEE This paper presents a directly 3D printed soft monolithic robotic finger with embedded soft pneumatic sensing chambers (PSC) as position and touch sensors. The monolithic finger was fabricated using a low-cost and open-source fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer that employs an off-the-shelf soft and flexible commercially available thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). A single soft hinge with an embedded PSC was optimized using finite element modeling (FEM) and a hyperelastic material model to obtain a linear relationship between the internal change in the volume of its PSC and the corresponding input mechanical modality, to minimize its bending stiffness and to maximize its internal volume. The soft hinges with embedded PSCs have several advantages, such as fast response to very small changes in their internal volume (~0.0026ml/°), linearity, negligible hysteresis, repeatability, reliability, long lifetime and low power consumption. Also, the flexion of the soft robotic finger was predicted using a geometric model for use in real-time control. The real-time position and pressure/force control of the soft robotic finger were achieved using feedback signals from the soft hinges and the touch PSC embedded in the tip of the finger. This study contributes to the development of seamlessly embedding optimized sensing elements in the monolithic topology of a soft robotic system and controlling the robotic system using the feedback data provided by the sensing elements to validate their performance.