Science News

New soft robots really suck: Vacuum-powered systems empower diverse capabilities

We introduce a vacuum-powered soft pneumatic actuator (V-SPA) that leverages a single, shared vacuum power supply and enables complex soft robotic systems with multiple degrees of freedom (DoFs) and diverse functions. In addition to actuation, other utilities enabled by vacuum pressure include gripping and stiffening through granular media jamming, as well as direct suction adhesion to smooth surfaces, for manipulation or vertical fixation. We investigate the performance of the new actuator through direct characterization of a 3-DoF, plug-and-play V-SPA Module built from multiple V-SPAs and demonstrate the integration of different vacuum-enabled capabilities with a continuum-style robot platform outfitted with modular peripheral mechanisms. We show that these different vacuum-powered modules can be combined to achieve a variety of tasks—including multimodal locomotion, object manipulation, and stiffness tuning—to illustrate the utility and viability of vacuum as a singular alternative power source for soft pneumatic robots and not just a peripheral feature in itself. Our results highlight the effectiveness of V-SPAs in providing core soft robot capabilities and facilitating the consolidation of previously disparate subsystems for actuation and various specialized tasks, conducive to improving the compact design efficiency of larger, more complex multifunctional soft robotic systems.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content

RoboBusiness: 4 Tips on Working With Partners to Adopt Robotics

If your business is like many, you may realize that you could benefit from introducing robotics into your processes but may not have a clear idea of how they could have the greatest impact. But choosing the wrong technological path or the wrong partner can lead you down an expensive, time-consuming path to a “solution” that meets neither your needs nor your goals.
Source: Robotics Trends

Self-healing soft pneumatic robots

Inspired by the compliance found in many organisms, soft robots are made almost entirely out of flexible, soft material, making them suitable for applications in uncertain, dynamic task environments, including safe human-robot interactions. Their intrinsic compliance absorbs shocks and protects them against mechanical impacts. However, the soft materials used for their construction are highly susceptible to damage, such as cuts and perforations caused by sharp objects present in the uncontrolled and unpredictable environments they operate in. In this research, we propose to construct soft robotics entirely out of self-healing elastomers. On the basis of healing capacities found in nature, these polymers are given the ability to heal microscopic and macroscopic damage. Diels-Alder polymers, being thermoreversible covalent networks, were used to develop three applications of self-healing soft pneumatic actuators (a soft gripper, a soft hand, and artificial muscles). Soft pneumatic actuators commonly experience perforations and leaks due to excessive pressures or wear during operation. All three prototypes were designed using finite element modeling and mechanically characterized. The manufacturing method of the actuators exploits the self-healing behavior of the materials, which can be recycled. Realistic macroscopic damage could be healed entirely using a mild heat treatment. At the location of the scar, no weak spots were created, and the full performance of the actuators was nearly completely recovered after healing.

Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content