Multi-DoF Force Characterization of Soft Actuators

Soft actuators provide highly adaptable actuator options for applications in wearable devices, grippers and mobile robots due to their inherent compliance. However, this compliance causes soft actuators to have virtually infinite degrees of freedom (DoF) of motion, and challenges accurate prediction of their displacement and interaction forces. While several studies have characterized soft actuators either in blocked condition or in a specific range of motion, the testing conditions often do not match actual loading conditions, which leads to discrepancies between expected and observed mechanical behaviour. Here, we propose a novel multi-DoF experimental protocol for characterizing soft actuator interaction forces by considering three critical aspects: anchoring conditions, displacement boundary conditions and actuation power. In order to conduct this multi-DoF characterization, we designed a novel reconfigurable robotic test platform for enforcing anchoring conditions and planar displacement boundary conditions, and measuring forces at multiple contact locations. Using this experimental protocol and set-up, we dictated three loading conditions: pulling force, tip loading and three-point bending; and analyzed the interaction forces of a soft bending actuator. Our results show that the three loading conditions produce distinct actuator behaviours. This validates the importance of loading conditions on soft actuator performance.

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IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 4, 4 , 3679 - 3686
Jul 10 2019
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 Record created 2019-07-12, last modified 2020-04-24

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