Publication Details

Alici, G. (2018). Softer is Harder: What Differentiates Soft Robotics from Hard Robotics?. MRS Advances, 3 (28), 1557-1568.


This paper reports on what differentiates the field of soft (i.e. soft-bodied) robotics from the conventional hard (i.e. rigid-bodied) robotics. The main difference centres on seamlessly combining the actuation, sensing, motion transmission and conversion mechanism elements, electronics and power source into a continuum body that ideally holds the properties of morphological computation and programmable compliance (i.e. softness). Another difference is about the materials they are made of. While the hard robots are made of rigid materials such as metals and hard plastics with a bulk elastic modulus of as low as 1 GPa, the monolithic soft robots should be fabricated from soft and hard materials or from a strategic combination of them with a maximum elasticity modulus of 1 GPa. Soft smart materials with programmable mechanical, electrical and rheological properties, and conformable to additive manufacturing based on 3D printing are essential to realise soft robots. Selecting the actuation concept and its power source, which is the first and most important step in establishing a robot, determines the size, weight, performance of the soft robot, the type of sensors and their location, control algorithm, power requirement and its associated flexible and stretchable electronics. This paper outlines how crucial the soft materials are in realising the actuation concept, which can be inspired from animal and plant movements.

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