Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Mechanical, Material, Mechatronic and Biomedical Engineering


Continued technological progress in robotic systems has led to more applications where robots and humans operate in close proximity and even physical contact in some cases. Soft robots, which are primarily made of highly compliant and deformable materials, provide inherently safe features, unlike conventional robots that are made of stiff and rigid components. These robots are ideal for interacting safely with humans and operating in highly dynamic environments. Soft robotics is a rapidly developing field exploiting biomimetic design principles, novel sensor and actuation concepts, and advanced manufacturing techniques.

This work presents novel soft pneumatic actuators and sensors that are directly 3D printed in one manufacturing step without requiring postprocessing and support materials using low-cost and open-source fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers that employ an off-the-shelf commercially available soft thermoplastic poly(urethane) (TPU). The performance of the soft actuators and sensors developed is optimized and predicted using finite element modeling (FEM) analytical models in some cases. A hyperelastic material model is developed for the TPU based on its experimental stress-strain data for use in FEM analysis. The novel soft vacuum bending (SOVA) and linear (LSOVA) actuators reported can be used in diverse robotic applications including locomotion robots, adaptive grippers, parallel manipulators, artificial muscles, modular robots, prosthetic hands, and prosthetic fingers. Also, the novel soft pneumatic sensing chambers (SPSC) developed can be used in diverse interactive human-machine interfaces including wearable gloves for virtual reality applications and controllers for soft adaptive grippers, soft push buttons for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education platforms, haptic feedback devices for rehabilitation, game controllers and throttle controllers for gaming and bending sensors for soft prosthetic hands. These SPSCs are directly 3D printed and embedded in a monolithic soft robotic finger as position and touch sensors for real-time position and force control. One of the aims of soft robotics is to design and fabricate robotic systems with a monolithic topology embedded with its actuators and sensors such that they can safely interact with their immediate physical environment. The results and conclusions of this thesis have significantly contributed to the realization of this aim.

This thesis is unavailable until Wednesday, December 02, 2020



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.