4D-printed pneumatic soft actuators modeling, fabrication, and control

Publication Name

Smart Materials in Additive Manufacturing, volume 2: 4D Printing Mechanics, Modeling, and Advanced Engineering Applications


Soft actuators are one of the primary and critical components of a soft robot. Soft robots demand dexterous, fast, and reversible soft actuators that must be able to contract, extend, bend, and/or twist with favorable performance while delivering sufficient output forces. Pneumatic soft actuators are one of the most used types of soft actuators for soft robotic systems since they can be designed with internal deformable hollow chambers that dictate a desired output motion and can be directly fabricated using various additive manufacturing techniques. Pneumatic soft actuators based on a volumetric expansion and contraction are two main classes that include positive pressure soft actuators requiring compressed air to be activated or inflated upon their actuation and negative pressure soft actuators requiring a vacuum source for actuation. This chapter presents four-dimensional (4D)-printed pneumatic soft actuators that are fabricated directly using various additive manufacturing techniques, including fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP), selective laser sintering (SLS), material jetting (MJ), and rapid liquid printing (RLP), to generate a useful mechanical output for a purpose and function they are designed and fabricated for. The actuators are presented in terms of their types, modeling, materials, fabrication, sensing, control, capabilities, and applications in diverse soft robotic systems. A discussion is provided on the presented 4D-printable soft actuators along with a list of what is needed to develop robust and functional soft pneumatic actuators for soft robots. This chapter emphasizes the importance of implementing a top-down approach to stimulate more interaction between materials scientists and robotic researchers so that three-dimensional (3D)- and 4D-printable soft materials that meet the function and application requirements of a robotic system are developed to fully exploit such synthesized materials by roboticists and use them in practical robotic systems and devices.

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