Continuum robots have high degrees of freedom and the ability to safely move in constrained environments. One class of soft continuum robot is the “vine” robot. This type of robot extends from its tip by everting or unfurling new material, driven by internal body pressure. Most vine robot examples store new body material in a reel at their base, passing it through the core of the robot to the tip, and like many continuum robots, steer by selectively lengthening or shortening one side of the body. While this approach to steering and material storage lends itself to a fully soft device, it has three key limitations: (i) internal friction of material passing through the core of the robot limits its length in tortuous paths, (ii) body buckling as the robot's body material is re-spooled at the base can prevent retraction, and (iii) constant curvature steering limits the robot's poses and object approach angles in a given workspace. This letter presents a hybrid soft-rigid robotic system comprising a soft vine robot body and a rigid, mobile, internal steering-reeling mechanism (SRM); this SRM is equipped with a reel for material storage, a bending actuator for steering, and is capable of actuating themore »
AFREEs: Active Fiber Reinforced Elastomeric Enclosures
Soft continuum manipulators provide a safe alternative to traditional rigid manipulators, because their bodies can absorb and distribute contact forces. Soft manipulators have near infinite potential degrees of freedom, but a limited number of control inputs. This underactuation means soft continuum manipulators often lack either the controllability or the dexterity to achieve desired tasks. In this work, we present an extension of McKibben actuators, which have well-known models, that increases the controllable degrees of freedom using active reconfiguration of the constraining fibers. These Active Fiber Reinforced Elastomeric Enclosures (AFREEs) preform some combination of length change and twisting, depending on the fiber configuration. Experimental results shows that by changing the fiber angles within a range of -30 to 30 degrees and actuating the resulting configuration between 10.3 kPa and 24.1 kPa, we can achieve twists between ± 60 degrees and displacements between -2 and 4 mm. By additionally controlling the fiber lengths and pressure, we can modify the AFREE kinematics further, creating dynamic behaviors and trajectories of actuation. The presented actuator creates the possibility to reconFigure actuator kinematics to meet desired soft robot motions.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft)
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 305 to 311
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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