Publication Details

Tawk, C., Spinks, G. M., in het Panhuis, M. & Alici, G. (2019). 3D Printable Linear Soft Vacuum Actuators: Their Modeling, Performance Quantification and Application in Soft Robotic Systems. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 24 (5), 2118-2129.


Conventional robotic systems have proved their versatility in the industry where complex tasks requiring high force, high speed and high precision are desired. However, these rigid-bodied systems cannot collaborate safely with humans. Soft robots which are primarily made of highly compliant materials bring robots and humans together by operating safely in unstructured environments. Soft robots demand dexterous soft actuators that preserve or enhance their softness and safety features. This article reports on modeling, performance quantification, and soft robotic applications of directly three-dimensional (3-D) printed linear soft vacuum actuators (LSOVA), that are manufactured in a single step, using a low-cost and affordable open-source fused deposition modeling 3-D printer. Numerical and experimental results presented show that LSOVA have multiple advantages including high bandwidth (~6.49 Hz), high output force (~27 N) and long lifetime (~21 500 cycles). LSOVA blocked force and linear stroke can be predicted accurately using finite element and analytical models. Furthermore, LSOVA are scalable. The soft actuators can be either assembled in parallel as a bundle, where a linear relationship exists between the number of actuators and the output force or can be scaled up in terms of internal volume where a linear relationship exists between the output force and the internal volume of a single actuator. Finally, LSOVAs were tailored for various robotic applications including soft crawling robots for navigation in tubular systems, soft parallel manipulators for pick and place tasks, soft artificial muscles, soft prosthetic fingers for prosthetic hands, and soft adaptive grippers for gripping applications.

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