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Modeling of Soft Fiber-Reinforced Bending Actuators

Article (PDF Available) inIEEE Transactions on Robotics 31(3):778-789 · June 2015with732 Reads
DOI: 10.1109/TRO.2015.2428504
Zheng Wang at The University of Hong Kong
  • 21.76
  • The University of Hong Kong
Conor James Walsh at Harvard University
  • 35.36
  • Harvard University
Abstract
Soft fluidic actuators consisting of elastomeric matrices with embedded flexible materials are of particular interest to the robotics community because they are affordable and can be easily customized to a given application. However, the significant potential of such actuators is currently limited as their design has typically been based on intuition. In this paper, the principle of operation of these actuators is comprehensively analyzed and described through experimentally validated quasi-static analytical and finite-element method models for bending in free space and force generation when in contact with an object. This study provides a set of systematic design rules to help the robotics community create soft actuators by understanding how these vary their outputs as a function of input pressure for a number of geometrical parameters. Additionally, the proposed analytical model is implemented in a controller demonstrating its ability to convert pressure information to bending angle in real time. Such an understanding of soft multimaterial actuators will allow future design concepts to be rapidly iterated and their performance predicted, thus enabling new and innovative applications that produce more complex motions to be explored.
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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS 1
Modeling of Soft Fiber-Reinforced
Bending Actuators
Panagiotis Polygerinos, Member, IEEE, Zheng Wang, Member, IEEE, Johannes T. B. Overvelde, Kevin C. Galloway,
Robert J. Wood, Katia Bertoldi, and Conor J. Walsh, Member, IEEE
Abstract—Soft fluidic actuators consisting of elastomeric ma-
trices with embedded flexible materials are of particular interest
to the robotics community because they are affordable and can
be easily customized to a given application. However, the signifi-
cant potential of such actuators is currently limited as their design
has typically been based on intuition. In this paper, the principle
of operation of these actuators is comprehensively analyzed and
described through experimentally validated quasi-static analytical
and finite-element method models for bending in free space and
force generation when in contact with an object. This study pro-
vides a set of systematic design rules to help the robotics community
create soft actuators by understanding how these vary their out-
puts as a function of input pressure for a number of geometrical
parameters. Additionally, the proposed analytical model is imple-
mented in a controller demonstrating its ability to convert pressure
information to bending angle in real time. Such an understanding
of soft multimaterial actuators will allow future design concepts
to be rapidly iterated and their performance predicted, thus en-
abling new and innovative applications that produce more complex
motions to be explored.
Index Terms—Bending, fiber reinforced, fluidic actuator, mod-
eling, soft robot.
I. INTRODUCTION
SOFT robotics is a rapidly growing research field that com-
bines robotics and materials chemistry, with the ability to
preprogram complex motions into flexible elastomeric materials
(Young’s modulus 102106Pa) [1]–[4]. These soft systems
are engineered using low-cost fabrication techniques, provide
adaptable morphology in response to environmental changes,
and are ideally suited for gripping and manipulating delicate
objects [2]–[7].
Manuscript received March 26, 2014; revised February 1, 2015; accepted
April 23, 2015. This paper was recommended for publication by Associate
Editor S. Hirai and Editor B. J. Nelson upon evaluation of the reviewers’ com-
ments. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation
under Grant #1317744 and Grant #IIS-1226075, by DARPA Award W911NF-
11-1-0094, and by the Wyss Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied
Sciences, Harvard University.
P. Polygerinos, R. J. Wood, and C. J. Walsh are with the School of Ap-
plied Sciences and Engineering and Wyss Institute, Harvard University, Cam-
bridge, MA 02138 USA (e-mail: polygerinos@seas.harvard.edu; rjwood@seas.
harvard.edu; walsh@seas.harvard.edu).
Z. Wang is with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University
of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (e-mail: zwangski@hku.hk).
J. T. B. Overvelde and K. Bertoldi are with the School of Applied Sci-
ences and Engineering and Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Tech-
nology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA (e-mail: overvelde@
seas.harvard.edu; bertoldi@seas.harvard.edu).
K. C. Galloway is with Wyss Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
02138 USA (e-mail: kevin.galloway@wyss.harvard.edu).
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available online
at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TRO.2015.2428504
Soft actuators are commonly constructed as monolithic struc-
tures from compliant materials such as electroactive polymers
[8]–[10], shape memory alloys [11], [12], elastomers [2], hydro-
gels [13], [14], or composites that undergo a solid-state phase
transition [15]. Their actuation can be achieved by a variety
of stimuli, including electrical charges [9]–[12], chemical reac-
tions [16], [17], and pressurized fluids [2], [3], [7], [15]–[22]. In
particular, pneumatic and hydraulic powered soft actuators are
promising candidates for robotics applications because of their
lightweight, high power-to-weight ratio, low material cost, and
ease of fabrication with emerging digital fabrication techniques
[15]–[19], [23]. Upon pressurization, embedded chambers in
the soft actuator expand in the directions associated with low
stiffness and give rise to bending [2], twisting [24], and extend-
ing/contracting motions [25]. Furthermore, these actuators can
be integrated into the structure of soft robotic systems both as
actuators and structural elements [2], [3], [5], [7], [18], [25],
[26]. For a more comprehensive view on the soft robotic liter-
ature, the authors refer to review works of Majidi [1], Trivedi
et al. [27], and Kim et al. [28].
While empirical approaches have highlighted the exciting
potential of soft actuators, the lack of robust models for soft
multimaterial fluidic actuators is greatly limiting their potential.
Predicting a soft actuator’s performance (e.g., deformation and
force output in response to a pressurized fluid) prior to manu-
facture is nontrivial due to the nonlinear response and complex
geometry. One class of soft actuators that has received signifi-
cant research attention in recent years are soft bending actuators,
but limited modeling work has been conducted. To make these
actuators widely applicable, a systematic understanding of the
relationship between actuator geometry and its performance is
required.
In this study, soft actuators are considered that are activated
by pressurized air and are constructed from a combination of
elastomeric (hyperelastic silicones) and inextensible materials
(fabrics and fibers), i.e., soft fiber-reinforced bending actuators
(see Fig. 1) [8], [29]–[31]. Compared with existing geometri-
cally complex soft bending actuator designs with bellows [2],
[3], [18], [24], the widely used soft fiber-reinforced bending ac-
tuators have a much simpler tubular geometry that offers ease
of manufacture, and where fibers can be arranged along their
length to enable nontrivial deformation modes. In addition, a
strain-limiting layer added to one side enables bending. To get
deeper insight into the response of the system and be able to ef-
ficiently design application-specific soft actuators, quasi-static
analytical and finite-element method (FEM) models are devel-
oped. Compared with previous FEM models, the proposed 3-D
models capture the contact interaction information between the
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2IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS
Fig. 1. (a) Soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator in the unpressurized state
and a closeup view of the fiber reinforcements (fiber winding). (b) Same actuator
in the pressurized state.
straining elastomer material and the nonstraining fiber rein-
forcements. This enables to capture in a realistic manner the
behavior of the bending actuators while providing details about
stress concentration points and the generated strains. In addi-
tion, a series of experimental tests are conducted to validate
the models. In particular, 1) the bending of the actuator in free
space and 2) the force applied by the actuator at its proximal
tip when in contact with an object are measured. Furthermore,
the developed analytical model is used in feedback control loop
experiments to demonstrate its ability to perform real-time con-
version of the supplied air pressure signal into bending angle
information.
II. ACTUATOR FABRICATION
The widely used design of the soft fiber-reinforced bending
actuator is in this study fabricated following a new multistep
molding process developed by the authors that ensures faster
production times and more robust and repeatable actuator out-
comes. This fabrication technique is comprised of four parts:
1) a hemicircle elastomeric air chamber (including the caps at
the distal and proximal ends); 2) circumferential fiber windings
that run along the length of the chamber; 3) an inextensible
base layer; and 4) a soft coating material (sheath) that encapsu-
lates the entire system [31]. The circumferential reinforcement
provided by the fibers limits radial expansion and promotes
linear extension, while the strain limiting layer at the base re-
stricts linear extension on one face of the actuator. Therefore, as
the actuator is pressurized, part of it expands while the strain-
limited portion restrains any linear expansion along one surface
(see Fig. 1), producing a bending motion. More details about
the described fabrication method can also be found at the soft-
roboticstoolkit.com website [38] The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a
collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication,
modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices.
To offer complete control over every aspect of the assembled
actuator including geometry, material properties, and pattern of
fiber reinforcements, a multistep molding approach was used.
The molds for the actuator were 3-D printed with an Objet
Connex 500 printer. The first rubber layer (Elastosil M4601
A/B Wacker Chemie AG, Germany) [see Fig. 2(a)]used a half
round steel rod to define the interior hollow portion of the ac-
tuator. Woven fiberglass (S2-6522, USComposites, FL, USA)
was glued to the flat face to serve as the strain limiting layer
[see Fig. 2(b)]. After molding the first rubber layer, fiber rein-
forcements were added to the surface [see Fig. 2(c)]. A single
Kevlar fiber (0.38-mm diameter) was wound in a double helix
pattern around the length of the actuator body. Raised features
in the mold were transferred to the actuator surface to define
the fiber path for consistency of fiber placement. Fiber rein-
forcements were further secured by placing the entire assembly
into another mold to encapsulate the actuator body in a 1.0-mm-
thick silicone layer (Ecoflex-0030 silicone, Smooth-on Inc., PA,
USA) [see Fig. 2(d)]. The actuator body was then removed from
the mold and the half round steel rod [see Fig. 2(e)]. The first
open end was capped by placing it into a small cup of uncured
silicone. Once this end cured, a vented screw was fed through
the 15-mm-thick silicone cap to form the mechanical connec-
tion for the pneumatic tubes (see Fig. 2(e), top right). The other
open end was capped in a similar manner (see Fig. 2(e), lower
right).
III. ACTUATOR MODELING
In rigid-bodied robots, there are well-defined models to char-
acterize the motion of mechanical linkages and the force they
can produce. In this study, both detailed FEM models and
computationally inexpensive analytical models of a soft fiber-
reinforced bending actuator were pursued to analyze the behav-
ior of the actuator and obtain a relationship between the input
air pressure and the bending angle, as well as the relationship
between the input air and the output force.
A. Analysis of Actuator Cross-Sectional Shapes
The actuator design can be tuned by varying a number of
geometrical parameters including the wall thickness of the air
chamber, the length of the actuator, the diameter of the hemicir-
cle chamber shape, and the fiber winding pitch and orientation
(see Fig. 3). Changing any of these parameters will result in
different performance. Furthermore, the shape of the cross sec-
tion can also significantly affect the response of the system as
the magnitude of the area determines the force generated by the
pressure acting on it and it will also influence the stress distri-
bution in the elastic material as it resists expansion. In the past,
rectangular (RT), circular (FC), and hemicircular (HC) shapes
have been used in soft actuator designs without explicitly com-
paring their efficiencies [8], [29], [32]. In this study, these three
cross-sectional shapes were compared to identify the most ef-
fective shape for a soft bending actuator based on which requires
the least pressure to bend to the same angle while preserving its
original cross-sectional shape.
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POLYGERINOS et al.: MODELING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATORS 3
Fig. 2. Schematic outlining some stages of the soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator fabrication process. (a) First molding step using a 3-D printed part.
(b) Strain limiting layer (woven fiberglass) is attached to the flat face of the actuator. (c) Thread (Kevlar fiber) is then wound along the entire length of the actuator.
(d) Second molding step: the entire actuator is encapsulated in a layer of silicone to anchor all fiber reinforcements. (e) In the final step, the half-round steel rod is
removed and both ends of the actuator are capped allowing one end to have a port for the inflow/outflow of air.
Fig. 3. Soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator showing numbered and labeled the geometrical parameters and design variables that can affect its behavior.
Materials A, B, C, and D represent the material properties of the actuator body, sheath, fiber reinforcements, and base inextensible layer, respectively.
The dimensions for each shape were obtained [see Fig. 4(a)]
using the same cross-sectional area of a2, and vis the ratio
between rectangular edges. Assuming an actuator wall thick-
ness of t=a/4, with an input air pressure of Pin, the bending
torques(Ma)of internal air pressure against the distal cap of the
actuator geometry were calculated as
MRT
a=0.5
va3Pin (1)
MHC
a=0.34a3Pin (2)
MFC
a=0.72a3Pin.(3)
A larger Mavalue indicated that a particular shape could gen-
erate a larger bending torque for the same input pressure.
To create actuator bending, the torque Mamust overcome the
internal bending moments, which are also functions of the actua-
tor geometry. To quantify and compare this effect, the ratio of the
actuator internal bending moment and the pressure-generated
bending torque Mais denoted as the bending resistance, and the
bending resistance for all three cross-sectional shapes is shown
in Fig. 4(b) for a bending angle ranged from 0°to 360°.A
lower vertical axis value indicates an actuator that is theoret-
ically easier to bend, and therefore, the RT shape was found
less suitable since it required the highest amount of pressure to
reach the same bending angle. On the other hand, the HC was
found easier to bend. Additionally, the RT shape was assumed
with a ratio (v)of 1.47, such that it could generate a bending
torque Maequal to that of the HC shape when the same amount
of pressure Pin was provided. As a result, both the RT and FC
shapes demonstrated similar bending resistance. Based on the
above, the HC shape was chosen for this study.
B. Analytical Modeling
An analytical model was developed that captures the explicit
relationship between input pressure, bending angle, and output
force by taking into consideration both the hyperelastic material
property of silicone rubber and the geometry of the actuator.
The variables in the model were actual actuator dimensions and
material properties that could be either measured or obtained
from calibrations.
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4IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS
Fig. 4. (a) Cross-sectional views of a rectangular (RT), hemicircle (HC), and
full circle (FC) actuator shape with equal cross-sectional area and with a strain
limiting layer attached at their bottom face. (b) Efficiency comparison (bending
resistance) of the different actuator shapes. A lower bending resistance indicates
that an actuator is easier to bend with less pressure.
1) Material Model: The soft fiber-reinforced bending actua-
tors were fabricated using silicone rubber. This was modeled as
an incompressible Neo–Hookean (NH) material [33] so that the
strain energy is given by
W=μ
2(I13) (4)
where I1is the first invariant of the three (axial, circumferential
and radial) principal stretch ratios λ1,λ2,and λ3as
I1=λ2
1+λ2
2+λ2
3(5)
and μis the initial shear modulus of the material. The principal
nominal stresses sicould then be obtained as a function of W,
λi, and the Lagrange multiplier pas
si=∂W
λip
λi
.(6)
2) Model for Bending Angle in Free Space: A geometrical
model of the soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator that relates
the input air pressure and the bending angle in free space is
derived fully accounting for large deformations. It was assumed
that when compressed air (P1>P
atm) is supplied to the air
chamber, the top wall will extend while the bottom layer will be
constrained by the inextensible layer, thus causing the actuator
to bend toward the bottom layer with a radius Rand angle θ(see
Fig. 5). Here, the fiber-reinforced mechanism was considered to
be a hard constraint to the actuator. Although the actuator has
a multilayered structure, for the sake of simplicity, it was mod-
eled as a homogeneous incompressible NH material [33] with
effective initial shear modulus ¯μ. The dynamics associated with
pressurization were neglected in the model, and it was assumed
that the actuator always has a uniform bending curvature.
Here, the principal stretch λ1along the axial direction of
the actuator was denoted. Furthermore, due to the fiber rein-
forcement constraint, the strain in the circumferential direc-
tion was negligible so that λ2=1. Finally, considering the
incompressibility of the material, λ1λ2λ3=1, it was obtained
Fig. 5. (Top left) Side view of the soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator in
a bending state. Closeup view: view of the actuator distal tip showing the
generated moments. Lower center: Cross-sectional view of the actuator.
that
λ1=λ,λ2=1,λ3=1
λ.(7)
Next, a vanishing stress was assumed in radial direction
through the thickness of the actuator (i.e., s3=0), and by com-
bining (6) with (4) and (5) as
s1=∂W
λ1P
λ1
μλ1
λ3(8)
s2=∂W
λ2P
λ2
μ11
λ2(9)
s3μλ3P
λ3
=0 (10)
pμλ2
3=¯μ
λ2.(11)
Within the range of stretches considered in this application
(1λ<1.5), the circumferential stress s2was significantly
smaller than s1(i.e., s2<s
1/2). Therefore, s1was considered
to be the only nonvanishing principal stress and hereafter de-
noted as s.
The internal stretch of the actuator materials resulted in an
opposing bending moment. Therefore, at each bending configu-
ration, a torque equilibrium was reached around the fulcrum O,
as it is shown in Fig. 5, that can be obtained from
Ma=Mθ(12)
where Mais the bending torque of internal air pressure against
the distal cap of the actuator, and Mθis the combined moment
of the stresses stand sbon the top and bottom layers. Using the
hemicircular geometry with radius athe distal actuator cap was
a, Macan be calculated as
Ma=2(P1Patm)π
2
0
(asin ϑ+b)a2cos2ϑdϑ
=4a3+3πa2b
6(P1Patm).(13)
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POLYGERINOS et al.: MODELING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATORS 5
Moreover, combining the effect of the stresses acting on the
top and bottom layers, the bending moment is
Mθ=b
0
sβ·2(a+t)Lβdβ
+2
t
0π
2
0
sτ,φ (a+τ)2sin φ+b(a+τ)Ldφ
dτ.
(14)
Furthermore, by introducing the local coordinate β, the lon-
gitudinal stretch and strain in the bottom layer can be calculated
as (see Fig. 5)
λβ=R+β
R=L/θ +β
L/θ =βθ
L+1 (15)
sβμλβ1
λ3
β.(16)
Similarly, for the top layer with the coordinate τ(see Fig. 5):
λτ,φ =R+b+sinφ(a+τ)
R(17)
sτ,φ μλτ,φ 1
λ3
τ,φ .(18)
By substitution of (13) and (14) into (12), a relationship be-
tween the input air pressure Pin and the bending angle θin free
space can be obtained
Pin =6Mθ(θ)
4a3+3πa2b(19)
where Pin =P1Patm,aand bare the air chamber radius and
bottom thickness of the actuator, respectively, and Mθ(θ)was
given in (14). Substituting (15)–(18) into (14) to eliminate sand
λ, it is possible to show that Mθis a function of ¯μ, a, b, t, andθ.
However, the integral in (14) could not be computed analytically,
and therefore (14), and hence (19), had to be solved numerically.
The material property coefficient ¯μcan be obtained through
calibration tests.
3) Model for Bending Torque/Force: An expression for the
actuator force can be derived by extending the analytical model
previously developed for bending angle. In this analysis, the
actuator was assumed to be constrained at a zero bending angle
(i.e., constrained in a flat configuration) such that no internal
bending moments (Mθ) were generated under pressurization.
Therefore, the torque equilibrium at the fulcrum Oof Fig. 5
becomes
Mf=FL
f=Ma=κPin (20)
where Fis the contact force between the actuator distal cap
and the environment, Lfis the distal cap length, Mfis the
external bending torque generated by the contact force around
O, combining (20) with (13), and κis a function of the actuator
geometry given by
κ=4a3+3πa2b
6.(21)
This equation describes the pressure–force relationship under
an isometric process (constant bending angle). Although (20) is
only applicable for a specific bending angle (i.e., zero degrees),
it does provide insight into the relationship between actuator
geometry and bending force. It also follows that under isotonic
conditions (constant pressure), the force output will decrease as
bending angle increases, because larger bending moments are
required to bend the actuator to the desired angle. Hence, the
bending force described in (20) can be defined as the maximum
force output for a particular input pressure.
C. Finite-Element Method Modeling
The analytical model quickly generates insights into the re-
sponse of an actuator to pressurized air for a particular geometry.
However, it cannot capture certain aspects of the soft actuator
behavior such as the interaction of internal layers of differ-
ent materials. FEM models, on the other hand, provide a more
realistic description of the nonlinear response of the system, al-
though at a higher computational cost. An additional advantage
of FEM is that the deformation (and stress) in soft actuators can
be readily visualized, leading to a better understanding of the
influence of local strain on global actuator performance. Prior
work on FEM modeling soft elastomeric actuators with fiber
reinforcements has demonstrated the shape due to bending [7],
[34], but minimal work has been done to validate these models
experimentally or used to characterize the actuator stiffness and
force-generating capabilities [35], [36].
Prior to simulations, elastomeric samples of the individual
materials used to fabricate the actuator were tested accord-
ing to ASTM D638 (Type IV) at a rate of 500 mm/min for
uniaxial tensile strength, and compression samples were com-
pressed at a rate of 500 mm/min to obtain accurate material
properties. A hyperelastic incompressible Yeoh material model
[37], with strain energy U=2
i=1 Ci(Ii3), was used to
capture the nonlinear material behavior of both the Elastosil
and the Ecoflex materials. In particular, the material coeffi-
cients were C1=0.11MPa,C
2=0.02MPa for the Elastosil
and C1=0.012662MPa and C2=0MPafor the Ecoflex. It is
noted that the initial shear modulus was ¯μ=2C1.
To model the behavior of the actuators, 3-D FEM models
were constructed and analyzed with ABAQUS/Standard (Simu-
lia, Dassault Systemes). Simplifications in the model were kept
to a minimum in order to closely match the experimental setup.
The inlet for pressurized air was not taken into account in the
model as the pressure was applied to all the internal walls of
the chamber. All the components of the actuator were modeled
using solid tetrahedral quadratic hybrid elements (Abaqus ele-
ment type C3D10H). For the thin fiber windings, quadratic beam
elements were used (Abaqus element type B32), which were
connected to the Elastosil by tie constraints. The material of the
fiber winding was modeled as linear elastic (Young’s modulus of
E=31,076MPa and a Poisson’s ratio of v=0.36). The num-
ber of nodes and elements used in the models are summarized
in Table I.
As expected, the modeled beam elements introduced some
bending support, while the fiber windings provided no bending
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6IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS
TAB LE I
NUMBER OF NODES AND ELEMENTS FOR THE SOFT ACTUATOR FEM MODELS
Radius
(mm)
Length
(mm)
Wall Thickness
(mm)
Number of
Nodes
Number of
Elements (B32,
C3D10H)
6.0 100 2.0 71 309 44 465
6.0 130 2.0 95 061 59 108
6.0 160 2.0 118 708 73 614
8.0 100 2.0 98 113 62 301
8.0 130 2.0 128 787 81 219
8.0 160 1.0 90 449 55 141
8.0 160 2.0 160 711 101 097
8.0 160 3.0 185 274 118 557
10.0 160 2.0 192 650 121 106
12.0 160 2.0 208 921 131 646
stiffness. To decrease the modeled stiffness from the beam ele-
ments, the radius of the beam elements was reduced by a factor
of 2. This radius reduction resulted in an insignificant change
in tensile strength of the wire as it remained significantly stiffer
than the elastomer. It is also noted that although the physical
fiber windings did not have any compressive stiffness, the beam
elements of the FEM model added some. However, the influ-
ence of this effect on the simulation result can be neglected,
since all the beams were under tension. Furthermore, for sake
of computational efficiency and to increase the convergence of
the simulation, the bottom layer of the actuator, consisting of an
inextensible layer, was modeled as an elastomer (Yeoh material
with Ccombined =7.9MPa). The stiffness of the combined layer
remained sufficient to function as an inextensible layer. Finally,
to model loading of the actuator, an internal pressure was applied
to the surface of the chamber. The deformation of the actuator
obtained with the proposed FEM model is illustrated in Fig. 6.
Similarly, the previously developed FEM model was also used
to conduct a force analysis. In this force model, the proximal
cap was completely fixed, and the bending deformation of the
actuator was also constrained. The force was then determined
by summing the reaction forces at the nodes on the edge of the
distal cap.
IV. TESTING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED
BENDING ACTUATORS
A. Experimental Platform
An experimental platform was developed (see Fig. 7) to val-
idate the analytical and FEM models. This platform permitted
fast and easy characterization and incorporated multiple sens-
ing modalities [31], [36]. Within the platform, the soft actuator
proximal cap with the air inlet was clamped in a rigid fixture,
emulating the boundary constraints defined with the modeling
approaches. The distal cap of the actuator was free to bend in
the vertical plane. It is noted that a horizontal bending would
be less favorable since gravitational forces could bring the ac-
tuator out of plane. A high-definition camera (DSLR, Rebel
T2i, Canon Inc., NY, USA), was used to monitor the actuator
from the side so that the bending trajectory of its distal cap (tip)
could be recorded. The camera was aligned with a checkered
background. This technique allowed lens distortion issues to be
Fig. 6. Three-dimensional FEM model result for the actuator at unpressurized
and pressurized state at 196 kPa. (Top) FEM modeled fiber reinforcements,
inextensible layer in an unpressurized state. The arrows indicate their location
at the soft actuator. (Lower left) The bending angle shape at 360°of the FEM
modeled soft actuator in a cross-sectional view demonstrating the air chamber
and the fiber reinforcements. (Lower right) Bending angle shape at 360°of the
FEM modeled soft actuator in a strain contour view that highlights the maximum
principal strain locations and fiber reinforcements.
Fig. 7. Evaluation platform with all the associated equipment for monitor-
ing and control of the soft actuator. The evaluation platform is described in
[31], [36].
addressed and measurement accuracy to be enhanced. A metric
ruler was also placed on the rigid fixture, next to the actuator,
to provide a correlation between number of pixels in the pic-
ture frames and the actual length. Postprocessing of the video
frames was performed with freely available software (Kinovea
0.8.15), where the xand ycoordinates of the actuator tip trajec-
tory were tracked and bending angle was calculated. A six-axis
force/torque sensor (Nano17, ATI Industrial Automation, NC,
USA) was used to measure the force generating capability. A
short post was mounted on the force sensor and brought in
contact with the tip of the actuator. The actuator top surface
was placed in contact with a rigid fixture to minimize nonlinear
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POLYGERINOS et al.: MODELING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATORS 7
effects due to bending. The pressure inside the actuator was
gradually increased, while the force exerted by the actuator’s
tip was recorded. The experiments for each version of the soft
fiber-reinforced bending actuators were performed three times
to assess accuracy and repeatability.
B. Calibration Process
Five trials were conducted, and a one-step least-squares es-
timation procedure of ¯μ, was obtained using experimentally
measured input pressure and bending angles. In each trial, the
same actuator was pressurized to bend in free space. Although
the estimated ¯μvalue was expected to be actuator specific, in
reality, the difference was not significant among different ac-
tuator samples. The estimated ¯μvalue was 0.314 MPa for an
actuator with (a, b, t, L)=(8,2,2,160) mm. The same ¯μvalue
was used in all subsequent studies with good results.
V. VALIDATION AND EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS
A. Evaluation of Analytical and Finite-Element Method Model
To demonstrate the value of the proposed analytical and FEM
models, several physical parameters of the actuator (i.e., length,
radius, and wall thickness) were varied to evaluate their influ-
ence on bending angle at 90°, 180°, and 360°(i.e., full circle)
(see Fig. 8). A baseline set of geometrical parameters (160.0-
mm length, 2.0-mm wall thickness, and 8.0-mm radius) was
chosen as a starting point for the soft actuator where the max-
imum bending angle (i.e., 360°) could be reached at around
200 kPa (30 PSI). These dimensions were chosen as such
an actuator would be suitable for wearable robotic applications
[35]. An additional six variations of this parameter set were
used (e.g., the actuator length was varied while diameter and
wall thickness kept constant) to demonstrate the influence of
actuator geometry, as presented in Fig. 8. The results from this
evaluation presented some deviations in the absolute pressure
values. This was mainly due to the assumption in the analytical
model that the bottom layer of the actuator remained flat during
pressurization. In contrast, this radial bulging was captured by
the FEM models resulting in the actuator cases of radius and
wall thickness, which were cross section dependent, to deviate
more. Nonetheless, both models were found to provide similar
trends for all parameter variations. Specifically, the results of
Fig. 8(b) showed that for an increase in the length, higher air
pressure was required to achieve full 360°bending. Similarly,
a decrease in radius required higher air pressures for actuation
[see Fig. 8(a)]. Finally, it was shown that as the wall thickness
increased, air pressure also had to increase to achieve a given
bending angle [see Fig. 8(c)].
B. Bending Angle Experiments
The bending trajectories of the baseline actuator compared
with the analytical and the FEM models are illustrated in Fig. 9.
A good match between the theoretical and experimental data
can be observed from the plot (maximum displacement error of
3.7%), demonstrating the validity and accuracy of the models. In
addition, the pressure locations are shown for 0°and 360°bend-
ing in Fig. 9. These pressure angle-related locations presented
Fig. 8. Analytical and FEM modeling results for the soft fiber-reinforced
bending actuator in free space at: 90°, 180°, and 360°. (a) Pressure versus
actuator radius, for radius analytical values ranging from 6.0 to 12.0 mm and
FEM specific values of 6.0, 8.0, 10.0, and 12.0 mm. (b) Pressure versus actuator
length, for analytical length values ranging from 80.0 to 180.0 mm and FEM
specific values of 100.0, 130.0, and 160.0 mm. (c) Pressure versus wall thickness,
for analytical wall thickness ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 mm and FEM specific values
of 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 mm.
only small discrepancies in pressure values due to some initial
prebending (i.e., at 0 kPa) and gravitational influences in the
fabricated actuator with a maximum pressure error of 10.9%.
Experimental data were collected with the six variations of
actuator designs as described in the previous section. Each ac-
tuator was pressurized five times in order to bend in free space,
and the supplied pressure along with the corresponding bending
angle was measured using the experimental setup of Section IV-
A. The contractions occurred at a slow pressure rate of 0.2 Hz in
order to avoid any dynamic oscillations. Rates slow as these can
still be considered sufficient in some robotic applications where
speed of actuation is not of paramount importance. Examples
can be in soft rehabilitation devices where range of motion is
more important than speed [36]. The averaged measured pres-
sures were used with the analytical and FEM models to calculate
actuator bending angles. In Fig. 10, these results are compared
with the measured angles from the experiments. The findings
demonstrate that both models capture the overall trend of the
actuators. The discrepancies showed by the analytical model
were potentially a product of linearization of the NH model
at large deformations, radial bulging effects at the base layer,
and expansion of the elastomer. This nonlinear effect was more
apparent in shorter actuators due to the increased pressure, mak-
ing the bulging more profound. Finally, the experimental results
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8IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS
Fig. 9. Soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator tip trajectory for bending angle
from 0°to 360°. The experimental results are presented along with the analytical
and FEM model predictions. Images of the FEM modeled and physical actua-
tor at different bending angles are overlaid and superimposed with the graph,
respectively. The 0.0 kPa and maximum pressure locations are also shown for
FEM, experimental, and analytical results.
presented a repeatable nonlinear pattern (s-type curves, Fig. 10).
This was possibly due to gravitational forces that acted on the
actuators (i.e., in all stages of their bending, the center of gravity
of the actuators was changing compared with the path followed
by the actuator distal end).
C. Force Experiments
Soft actuators are capable of exerting forces either at their
tip or at the interaction points along their body as they con-
form around an object. As shown in Fig. 11(a), the top layer
of the actuator was constrained to minimize nonlinear effects
(i.e., the tendency of the actuator to bend when pressurized) and
to concentrate the force at the distal cap. This way, the max-
imum force that could be generated by the actuator at its tip
was measured when the distal cap was brought in contact with
the force/torque sensor. The experimental results obtained from
examining three actuators (two with same radius of 8.0 mm
but different lengths of 160.0 and 130.0 mm to assess the in-
fluence of length on force, and one with 6.0-mm diameter and
160.0-mm length to assess influence of radius on force) were
compared with the corresponding analytical and FEM models.
The results (see Fig. 11) demonstrated the ability of both models
in predicting force exertion from the tip of the actuator for this
configuration. In particular, the analytical model demonstrated
a maximum force error of 4.3% and the FEM model 10.3%.
In addition, it was shown that the actuator length has small in-
fluence on force generation, whereas changes in radius have a
more significant role. In particular, because the κcoefficient of
(21) is a function of the actuator radius (a), a decrease in radius
leads to significant loss of ability to deliver high forces.
Fig. 10. Input actuator pressure against bending angle results that were ob-
tained from the analytical model, FEM model and experimental data for a
bending angle ranging from 0°to 360°. (a) Soft fiber-reinforced bending actua-
tor length 160.0 mm, (b) 130.0 mm, and (c) 100.0 mm, with radius of 8.0 mm
and wall thickness of 2.0 mm. (d) Soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator length
160.0 mm, (e) 130.0 mm, and (f) 100.0 mm, with radius of 6.0 mm and wall
thickness of 2.0 mm.
VI. SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATOR CONTROL
A feedback control loop with an angle filter, as shown in
Fig. 12, was implemented to demonstrate the ability of the an-
alytical model of (19) to use pressure information to estimate
bending angle in real time. The control loop was built using the
experimental platform of Section IV-A, with a pressure regula-
tor, two pneumatic valves—inlet/outlet (X-valves, Parker Han-
nifin Corp., OH, USA)—and a pressure sensor (BSP001, Balluff
Inc., KY, USA). The two valves were connected to the soft ac-
tuator where the inlet was in line with the pressure regulator and
the outlet with the air exhaust. Between the two valves, the air
pressure Paof the actuator was measured. Utilizing (19) and the
measured input air pressure information Pa, the angle filter of
the feedback loop was able to estimate the actuator bending an-
gle θa. According to the error angle signal θe(i.e., desired angle
signal θdminus the bending angle θaof the actuator), the valve
controller Cvwith a sampling rate of 100 Hz was used to drive
the valves. In particular, positive angle θevalues indicated that
the soft actuator was not bent enough and thus enabled the valve
controller to open the inlet and close the outlet valve, and vice
versa. A deadzone was also introduced at the valve controller
to reduce undesired frequent switching of the valves. The dead-
zone created boundaries around the angle signal θethat allowed
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POLYGERINOS et al.: MODELING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATORS 9
Fig. 11. Force responses measured at the distal tip of the actuators using
the analytical model, FEM model, and experimental data (a) while the top
layer of the actuator was constrained. (b) Force responses for an actuator with:
160.0-mm length, 8.0-mm radius, and 2.0-mm wall thickness. (c) Force re-
sponses for an actuator with: 130.0-mm length, 8.0-mm radius, and 2.0-mm
wall thickness. (d) Force responses for an actuator with: 160.0-mm length,
6.0-mm radius, and 2.0-mm wall thickness.
Fig. 12. Feedback control loop scheme with the analytical model embedded
into the angle filter to calculate actuator bending angle from measured air
pressure.
the state of the valves to remain unchanged until the input was
changed adequately. This was expressed as
θDDZ =±θd
k+θc(22)
where k=50and θc=0.07 rad were parameters empirically
selected to minimize oscillations. A larger θDDZ value made the
valve controller more tolerant to signal noise, but also less agile
to changes of θdand hence reduced its tracking performance,
and vice versa.
The feedback control loop was tested in a step response ex-
periment and a sinusoidal tracking experiment. For both signal
forms, the time delay for the system to track the desired an-
gle signal θdand the unintended switching of the valves were
evaluated. In the step response test, as shown in Fig. 13(a), the
actuator angle was able to follow the reference signal with an
average convergence time of 91 ms and with an undesired valve
switching of 0.85% of the total time. It is noted that the exhaust
of the outlet valve was directly connected to the environment
Fig. 13. Feedback control loop performance. (a) Step response of the actual
signal (θa) and reference signal (θd), the angle error (θe) is shown with the
deadzone. (b) Sinusoidal tracking performance with a reference signal (θd)of
0.2 Hz.
resulting in slower discharging speed (124 ms). In the sinusoidal
experiment of Fig. 13(b), the actuator bending angle was suc-
cessful in tracking a θdangle signal of 0.2 Hz with a tracking
delay of 60 ms and an undesired valve switching of 0.5% of the
total time.
VII. CONCLUSION
Soft fluidic actuators can generate complex 3-D outputs at a
very low mechanical cost with simple control inputs. To date,
the development of such actuators has largely been an empirical
process. In order to enable the robotics research community to
deterministically design new soft robotic systems and provide
information on their performance prior to their manufacture, ac-
curate and experimentally validated quasi-static computational
(FEM) and analytical models were developed for a specific class
of soft actuators, the soft fiber-reinforced bending actuator.
The FEM models provide the ability to simulate the function
of the actuators and highlight local stress/strain concentrations
such as where the fibers interacted with the elastomer. Alter-
natively, the simplified analytical approach provided a means
of predicting actuator performance with explicit relationships
between input pressure, actuator bending angle, and output
force. The findings from the modeling work were also eval-
uated through experimental characterizations, which provided a
better understanding of the individual parameters that affect the
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10 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS
TAB LE I I
COMPARISON BETWEEN DIFFERENT DESIGN PARAMETERS OF THE
SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATOR
Increase in: Required pressure at
360°(i)
Force generated at 0°and
constant pressure (ii)
Radius ↓↑
Length ↓−
Wall Thickness n/a
: higher :lower: insignificant n/a: not available
(i) Required pressure to reach 360°bending angle. (ii) Force generation at the
proximal cap for a constant pressure at 0°bending angle.
performance of these soft actuators (see qualitative parameter
summary in Table II). Furthermore, a feedback control loop was
created to demonstrate the ease of actuator controllability. In this
case study, the analytical model for bending in free space was
utilized to create an angle filter and estimate the bending angle
of the soft actuator based only on the supplied air pressure. The
valve controller of the feedback control loop was successful in
tracking step and sinusoidal angle signals.
In the future, the dynamic behavior of the fiber-reinforced
bending actuators will be investigated, and the methods for sim-
ulating, fabricating, and controlling other types of soft multima-
terial fluidic actuators will be extended. Variations of the fiber
winding pitch and fiber orientation will also be investigated to
study the influence of these parameters on actuator performance,
specifically, the types of motions that can be achieved with a
single pressure control input.
APPENDIX
This analysis is to compare the bending torques (Ma)of
internal air pressure against the distal cap of each actuator ge-
ometry. The first factor to consider is the cross-sectional area.
For the same input pressure, the pressure-generated force on
each actuator tip will be the same if each actuator has the same
cross-sectional area. For this, if the area of each actuator is as-
sumed to be a2, the width and height of the RT shape and the
radii of the HC and FC shape are hence
wRT =va, hRT =a/v, rHC =0.80a, rFT =0.56a
where vis the coefficient determining the height/width ratio of
the rectangular shape.
Next, assuming the wall thicknesses of the actuators are t=
a/4, the bending torques of each actuator shape around the
bottom layer can be calculated as follows.
For RT shape:
The force generated by input pressure on each horizontal line
of the actuator tip with distance αfrom the bottom layer is
fRT =vaPindα. (A1)
Hence, the torque becomes
MRT
a=a
v
0
fRT (α+t)=1+0.5v
2va3Pin (A2)
For HC shape:
The force generated by input pressure on each horizontal line
of the actuator tip with distance αfrom the bottom layer is
fHC =2rHC cos θPin(A3)
where θ=asin α
rHC ; hence, α=rHCsinθ.
Therefore, the torque becomes
MHC
a=rHC
0
fHC α+a
4=2
3Pinr3
HC +πPinr2
HCa
8.
(A4)
Substituting rHC =0.80a,
MHC
a=2
3Pin (0.8a)3+πPin (0.8a)2a
8=0.59a3Pin.(A5)
For FC shape:
The force generated by input pressure on each horizontal line
of the actuator tip with distance αfrom the bottom layer is
fFC =2rFC sin φPin(A6)
where φ=acos rFC α
rFC ; hence, α=rFC(1 cos φ).
The torque then becomes
MFC
a=2rFC
0
fFC α+a
4
=2rFCPin 2rFC
0
sin φα+a
4dα. (A7)
Solving the above integration and substituting rFT =0.56a
gives
MFC
a=πr2
FC rFC +a
4Pin =0.80a3Pin.(A8)
Equations (A2), (A5), and (A8) are the corresponding bending
torques provided by the RT, HC, and FC shapes by supplied
pressure on their tips, respectively. In particular, the coefficient
vin (A2) is to be determined. In order to compare with the HC
shape, vis chosen to give the RT shape the same Maas the HC
shape with the same input pressure Pin, such that
MRT
a=1+0.5v
2va3Pin =MHC
a=0.59a3Pin.(A9)
Therefore, the value of coefficient vcan be calculated as
v=1.46.(A10)
Hence, the RT shape with v=1.46 has a cross-sectional
width of 1.46aand a height of a/1.46 = 0.68a. Compared with
the corresponding HC shape with a cross-sectional width of
20.8a=1.6aand height of 0.8a, the RT shape is notably
narrower and shorter, while having both the same cross-sectional
area and the same bending torque as the HC shape.
The pressure-induced bending torques in (A2), (A5), and
(A8) alone do not fully describe the actuator characteristics dur-
ing bending. Another important aspect is the internal material
stretch moment occurring with the bending motion as a resis-
tance. To quantify this, a model of the actuator internal stretch is
required. Here, a similar approach is taken in comparison with
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POLYGERINOS et al.: MODELING OF SOFT FIBER-REINFORCED BENDING ACTUATORS 11
the modeling procedure presented in this paper, where the hy-
perelastic material behavior is modeled by the NH model, and
only the axial direction principal stretch ratio λ1is considered
(see Section III-B1). Therefore the different geometries of three
actuator shapes could be considered separately, using the same
variable notation as in Fig. 5 of Section III-B2.
For RT shape:
With actuator length L, bending angle θ, and overall actuator
curve radius R(as shown in Fig. 5)
λ=d+R
R=θd
L+1 (A.11)
where dis the distance between the point where λis defined
to the actuator bottom. Therefore, the internal stretch moment
combining the top, bottom, and side actuator walls becomes
MRT
θ=2t+a/v
t+a/v
va ·L·d·μλλ3·dd
+t
0
va ·L·d·μλλ3·dd
+22t+a/v
0
t·μλλ3·L·d·dd. (A12)
For HC shape, the result from (14) can be used (with a=
rHC and b=t):
MHC
θ=t
0
sβ·2(rHC +t)Lβdβ
+2t
0π
2
0
sτ,φ (rHC +τ)2sin φ
+t(rHC +τ)) Ldφ)dτ. (A13)
where sβand sτ,φ are defined as in (15) and (18), respectively.
For FC shape:
The axial principal stretch λis
λ=t+R+rFC (rFC +c)cosφ
R
=t+rFC (rFC +c)cosφ
Lθ+1 (A14)
where cis the radial distance between the point where λis
defined to the actuator inner surface. Therefore, the internal
stretch moment of the actuator wall becomes
MFC
θ=2
π
0
μλλ3t
0
((rFC +t)(rFC +c)
(rFC +c)2cos φLdφdc. (A15)
Numerically solving the integrals in (A12), (A13), and (A15),
the internal stretch moments could be obtained for all three
actuator shapes. Consequently, the bending resistance, as shown
in Fig. 4(b), is defined as the ratio of the internal stretch moment
over the supplied bending torque:
Bending Resistance = Mθ
Ma
.(A16)
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[36] P. Polygerinos, S. Lyne, Z. Wang, L. Fernando, B. M. Nicolini,
G. M. Whitesides, and C. J. Walsh, “Towards a Soft Pneumatic Glove
for Hand Rehabilitation.” in Proc. IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. Intell. Robot. Syst.,
Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 2013, pp. 1512–1517.
[37] O. Yeoh, “Some forms of the strain energy function for rubber,Rubber
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[38] (2015, Jan.). [Online]. Available: http://softroboticstoolkit.com/book/fr-
fabrication
Panagiotis Polygerinos (M’11) received the B.Eng.
degree in mechanical engineering from Technologi-
cal Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion, Greece,
in 2006, and the M.Sc. (with distinction) degree in
mechatronics and the Ph.D. degree in mechanical en-
gineering/medical robotics from King’s College Lon-
don, London, U.K., in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
He is a Technology Development Fellow with
Wyss Institute and the School of Engineering and
Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge,
MA, USA, where he specializes in soft robotic sys-
tems that find application in wearables, medical, and rehabilitation areas.
Zheng Wang (M’10) received the B.Sc. degree (with
merit) from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; the
M.Sc. degree (with distinction) from Imperial Col-
lege London, London, U.K.; and the Ph.D. degree
(with merit) from Technische Universit¨
at M¨
unchen,
M¨
unchen, Germany.
He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, be-
tween 2010 and 2013 and a Postdoctoral Fellow with
the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and
Wyss Institute of Bioinspired Engineering, Harvard
University, between 2013 and 2014. Since July 2014, he has been an Assistant
Professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Hong
Kong, Hong Kong. His research interest include haptics human–robot interac-
tion, teleoperation, cable-driven mechanisms, and soft robotics.
Johannes T. B. Overvelde received the B.Sc. and
M.Sc. degrees (both with distinction) in mechani-
cal engineering from Delft University of Technol-
ogy, Delft, The Netherlands, in 2012. He is currently
working toward the Ph.D. degree in applied mathe-
matics with Katia Bertoldi’s Group, School of En-
gineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University,
Cambridge, MA, USA.
His research interests include the field of structural
optimization and computational mechanics.
Kevin C. Galloway received the B.S.E. and Ph.D.
degrees in mechanical engineering from University
of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
He is a Research Engineer with the Advanced
Technology Team, Wyss Institute, Harvard Univer-
sity, Cambridge, MA, USA. His research interests
are in applying knowledge of materials and prototyp-
ing techniques toward the development of bioinspired
robots and medical devices.
Robert J. Wood received the Master’s and Ph.D.
degrees in electrical engineering from University of
California, Berkeley, CA, USA, in 2001 and 2004,
respectively.
He is an Associate Professor with the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss In-
stitute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard
University, Cambridge, MA, USA. His research in-
terests include the areas of microrobotics and bioin-
spired robotics.
Katia Bertoldi received the Master’s degrees from
University of Trento, Trento, Italy, in 2002, and from
Chalmers University of Technology, G¨
oteborg, Swe-
den, in 2003, majoring in structural engineering me-
chanics, and the Ph.D. degree in mechanics of materi-
als and structures from University of Trento in 2006.
She then joined the group of Mary Boyce, Mas-
sachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA,
USA, as a Postdoctoral Researcher. In 2008, she
moved to University of Twente, Twente, The Nether-
lands, where she was an Assistant Professor with the
faculty of Engineering Technology. In January 2010, she joined the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, as an As-
sociate Professor of applied mechanics and established a group studying the
mechanics of materials and structures.
Conor J. Walsh (M’12) received the B.A.I. and B.A.
degrees in mechanical and manufacturing engineer-
ing from Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, in
2003, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical
engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
nology, Cambridge, MA, USA, in 2006 and 2010, re-
spectively, with a minor in entrepreneurship through
the Sloan School of Management and also a Certifi-
cate in Medical Science through the Harvard–MIT
Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
He is an Assistant Professor with the Harvard
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member with
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cam-
bridge. He is the Founder of the Harvard Biodesign Laboratory, which brings
together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, apparel, clinical,
and business communities to develop new technologies and translate them to
industrial partners. His research focuses on new approaches to the design, man-
ufacture, and control of soft wearable robotic devices for augmenting and restor-
ing human performance, and evaluating them through biomechanical and phys-
iological studies.
  • ... One mode of interest is the combination of bending and twisting. Prior studies on macro-scale fiber-reinforced actuators have demonstrated that the twisting motion of a pneumatic actu- ator depends upon fiber orientation [24,25,55]. Similarly, Finio et al demonstrated that the maximum twist of a piezo- electric micro-actuator occurred when the anisotropic fibrous laminate was oriented at 45°; zero twist and torque were present at 0° or 90° [56]. ...
  • ... For instance, additional inserts of inelastomeric material around a soft silicone matrix with only a single pneumatic chamber can force a manipulator to respond to pneumatic actuation with different modes of motion, including bending, contraction, and twisting [17]. Similarly, it was shown that by controlling the fiber angle in fiber-reinforced soft actuators, one can control their movement, and it is possible to tailor the performance of the actuator for specific tasks by combining various fiber arrangements in different sections of the actuator [11,[18][19][20][21]. ...
  • ... The actuator has an overmolded elastomer layer to keep the fibers in place, creating an orthotropic composite material. The inside surface features a strain-limiting layer, creating a bending motion when pressurized [19]. A variation of this design integrates partial inextensible sleeves that affect the bending radius, allowing two 45 g fingers to support 6.1 kg [7]. ...
    ... Bending pneumatic actuators are designed following the general principle of having the inside surface restrained by a strain-limiting layer and the outside constrained radially, while allowing axial extension (Figure 1). Most existing bending muscles rely on a multistep molding process or fiber wrapping to create an orthotropic composite material [3,9,19]. Here, the design of bending actuators is based on previously published sleeved extensible pneumatic muscles, specifically designed to provide large strains (50% engineering strain) while maintaining a fatigue life over 200,000 cycles [11]. ...
  • ... Many different types of soft actuators working under pressure have been developed in- cluding e.g., McKibben actuators [14], PneuNets (Pneumatic Networks), and fiber-reinforced actuators [1], [15], [16]. Operating principle of fiber-reinforced actuators is based on anisotropic structure and expansion in the direction of the lowest modulus enabling wide range of motions [17], [18]. Fiber-reinforced actuators are studied by many researchers. ...
    ... Fiber-reinforced actuators are studied by many researchers. According to these studies, there are many variables affecting actuation results such as shape, length, inner radius, outer radius, wall thickness, number of fiber turns and fiber angle [17]- [19]. However, the effect of different elastomer types is rarely studied. ...
    ... However, the effect of different elastomer types is rarely studied. In most cases soft actuators are fabricated from silicone [17]- [20] due to its softness and ease of use. In addition, use of latex has been reported in [19]. ...
  • ... We envision usage of the first embodiment in soft actuators where elongation of the air chamber is mainly based on material strain 1 (e.g. [20]), whereas the second embodiment is especially useful for actuators where elongation is mainly realized through bellow-like geometries (e.g. [21]). ...
  • ... As exhibited in Fig. 2a, a single actuator of the proposed soft robotic glove is composed of three parts, including a soft pneumatic actuator (SPA), a FLS which is 3D printed with ductile material (PolyMaxTM, Polymaker) and two nylon strings (Daiwa, Japan) attached to the FLS through the tiny holes as in Fig. 2b. Note that the ductile utilized to manufacture the FLS is flexible and inextensible to some extent, the FLS can effectively restrict the radial expansion as well as the extension at the bottom layer of the SPA when compressed air is injected into the chamber, which is similar with the function of the fibers and strain limiting layer in conventional fiber-reinforced actuators [25]. Hence, a bending motion can be achieved consequently. ...
  • ... The manufacturing process of a com- posite bladder is provided as an example in detail, but it could potentially be modified as well to fit other soft robotic applications, such as McKibben actuators 8 and soft spatial actuators. 7,9 Manufacturing curved composite structures is significantly more difficult due to increased complexity in geometry and procedure. Similarly, composite materials are manufactured layer by layer. ...
    ... Such compliant reinforcement can be used to create durable soft actuators, possibly combined with stiff composite materials to make directional actuators. 9 Compliant composites could also be used to create rugged soft bladders for absorbing loads passively. ...
  • ... Finite Element Model (FEM) provides a general method to model soft robots. Both the deformation analysis [7] and real-time simulation [8] are available using FEM. Thanks to the real-time FEM 1 , the compliance matrix can be obtained on real-time by numerical computation. ...
  • ... When pneumatic/hydraulic soft robots are pressurized, the internal fluid chambers would expand and deform the actuator. By selectively controlling and redirecting the deformation, multiple forms of motions could be created or even combined, such as contraction/extension [150], bending [143,144,148,[151][152][153], and twisting [142,154]. Soft robots have a long list of desirable features, such as low weight, high power-toweight ratio, low material cost, and ease of fabrication [141,142]. ...
  • ... Structural vibrations have been widely exploited in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) for many important appli- cations including oscillators ( Antonio et al., 2012Antonio et al., , 2015Chen et al., 2016aChen et al., , 2017 ), actuators ( Roche et al., 2014;Polygerinos et al., 2015;Li et al., 2017aLi et al., , 2017bNiu et al., 2017 ), mass measurement ( Yan et al., 2017a ), measurement of mechanical prop- erties ( Belmiloud et al., 2008;Etchart et al., 2008;Park et al., 2010;Cakmak et al., 2015;Cermak et al., 2016;Corbin et al., 2016 ), energy harvesters ( Chen et al., 2013Chen et al., , 2016bPark et al., 2013;Chen and Jiang, 2015;Jiang et al., 2016Jiang et al., , 2017Zi et al., 2016;Zou et al., 2016Zou et al., , 2017aZou et al., , 2017b ), micro robots ( Diller et al., 2014;Connolly et al., 2015 ) and acoustics ( Nemat-Nasser et al., 2011;Nemat-Nasser and Srivastava, 2011;Bilal et al., 2017aBilal et al., , 2017b ). In most cases, such MEMS rely on two-dimensional (2D) vibrational modes, which are not well suited for multi-directional energy harvesting, anisotropic mechanical property measurement, simultaneous evaluation of multiple mechanical properties (density, modulus, viscosity etc.) and other applications where operation in a 3D space is required. ...
Project
Leveraging printed-circuit-inspired manufacturing processes and origami to develop high-quality, multi-modal sensors for biomedical applications.
Conference Paper
November 2013
    Established design and fabrication guidelines exist for achieving a variety of motions with soft actuators such as bending, contraction, extension, and twisting. These guidelines typically involve multi-step molding of composite materials (elastomers, paper, fiber, etc.) along with specially designed geometry. In this paper we present the design and fabrication of a robust, fiber-reinforced... [Show full abstract]
    Article
      Soft bending actuators are inherently compliant, compact, and lightweight. They are preferable candidates over rigid actuators for robotic applications ranging from physical human interaction to delicate object manipulation. However, characterizing and predicting their behaviors are challenging due to the material nonlinearities and the complex motions they can produce. This paper investigates... [Show full abstract]
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        Soft robots actuated by inflation of a pneumatic network (a “pneu-net”) of small channels in elastomeric materials are appealing for producing sophisticated motions with simple controls. Although current designs of pneu-nets achieve motion with large amplitudes, they do so relatively slowly (over seconds). This paper describes a new design for pneu-nets that reduces the amount of gas needed... [Show full abstract]
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          Soft robotics is a fast-emerging interdisciplinary field combining mechatronics, control, material science and biomimetics. With their unique inherent compliance feature, soft robots have advantages over rigid-bodied robots for operations in unstructured environments. On the other hand, most soft robots reported to date are laboratory prototypes rather than end products. To fill this gap, they... [Show full abstract]
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