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Proceedings Paper

Soft segmented inchworm robot with dielectric elastomer muscles
Author(s): Andrew T. Conn; Andrew D. Hinitt; Pengchuan Wang
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Paper Abstract

Robotic devices typically utilize rigid components in order to produce precise and robust operation. Rigidity becomes a significant impediment, however, when navigating confined or constricted environments e.g. search-and-rescue, industrial pipe inspection. In such cases adaptively conformable soft structures become optimal. Dielectric elastomers (DEs) are well suited for developing such soft robots since they are inherently compliant and can produce large musclelike actuation strains. In this paper, a soft segmented inchworm robot is presented that utilizes pneumatically-coupled DE membranes to produce inchworm-like locomotion. The robot is constructed from repeated body segments, each with a simple control architecture, so that the total length can be readily adapted by adding or removing segments. Each segment consists of a soft inflatable shell (internal pressure in range of 1.0-15.9 mBar) and a pair of antagonistic DE membranes (VHB 4905). Experimental testing of a single body segment is presented and the relationship between drive voltage, pneumatic pressure and active displacement is characterized. This demonstrates that pneumatic coupling of DE membranes induces complex non-linear electro-mechanical behaviour as drive voltage and pneumatic pressure are altered. Locomotion of a two-segment inchworm robot prototype with a passive length of 80 mm is presented. Artificial setae are included on the body shell to generate anisotropic friction for locomotion. A maximum locomotion speed of 4.1 mm/s was recorded at a drive frequency of 1.5 Hz, which compares favourably to biological counterparts. Future development of the soft inchworm robot are discussed including reflexive low-level control of individual segments.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 March 2014
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 9056, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2014, 90562L (8 March 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2044573
Show Author Affiliations
Andrew T. Conn, Univ. of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Univ. of the West of England (United Kingdom)
Andrew D. Hinitt, Univ. of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Univ. of the West of England (United Kingdom)
Pengchuan Wang, Univ. of Bristol (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9056:
Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2014
Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Editor(s)

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