Variable stiffness structures lie at the nexus of soft robots and traditional robots as they enable the execution of both high-force tasks and delicate manipulations. Laminar jamming structures, which consist of thin flexible sheets encased in a sealed chamber, can alternate between a rigid state when a vacuum is applied and a flexible state when the layers are allowed to slide in the absence of a pressure gradient. In this work, an additional mode of controllability is added by clamping and unclamping the ends of a simple laminar jamming beam structure. Previous works have focused on the translational degree of freedom that may be controlled via vacuum pressure; here we introduce a rotational degree of freedom that may be independently controlled with a clamping mechanism. Preliminary results demonstrate the ability to switch between three states: high stiffness (under vacuum), translational freedom (with clamped ends, no vacuum), and rotational freedom (with ends free to slide, no vacuum).
Discrete Layer Jamming for Variable Stiffness Co-Robot Arms
Abstract Continuous layer jamming is an effective tunable stiffness mechanism that utilizes vacuum to vary friction between laminates enclosed in a membrane. In this paper, we present a discrete layer jamming mechanism that is composed of a multilayered beam and multiple variable pressure clamps placed discretely along the beam; system stiffness can be varied by changing the pressure applied by the clamps. In comparison to continuous layer jamming, discrete layer jamming is simpler as it can be implemented with dynamic variable pressure actuators for faster control, better portability, and no sealing issues due to no need for an air supply. Design and experiments show that discrete layer jamming can be used for a variable stiffness co-robot arm. The concept is validated by quasi-static cantilever bending experiments. The measurements show that clamping 10% of the beam area with two clamps increases the bending stiffness by around 17 times when increasing the clamping pressure from 0 to 3 MPa. Computational case studies using finite element analysis for the five key parameters are presented, including clamp location, clamp width, number of laminates, friction coefficient, and number of clamps. Clamp location, number of clamps, and number of laminates are found to be most useful more »
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- Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics
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