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  1. null (Ed.)
    Current designs of powered prosthetic limbs are limited by the nearly exclusive use of DC motor technology. Soft actuators promise new design freedom to create prosthetic limbs which more closely mimic intact neuromuscular systems and improve the capabilities of prosthetic users. This work evaluates the performance of a hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) soft actuator for use in a prosthetic hand. We compare a linearly-contracting HASEL actuator, termed a Peano-HASEL, to an existing actuator (DC motor) when driving a prosthetic finger like those utilized in multi-functional prosthetic hands. A kinematic model of the prosthetic finger is developed and validated, and is used to customize a prosthetic finger that is tuned to complement the force-strain characteristics of the Peano-HASEL actuators. An analytical model is used to inform the design of an improved Peano-HASEL actuator with the goal of increasing the fingertip pinch force of the prosthetic finger. When compared to a weight-matched DC motor actuator, the Peano-HASEL and custom finger is 10.6 times faster, has 11.1 times higher bandwidth, and consumes 8.7 times less electrical energy to grasp. It reaches 91% of the maximum range of motion of the original finger. However, the DC motor actuator produces 10 times the fingertip force at a relevant grip position. In this body of work, we present ways to further increase the force output of the Peano-HASEL driven prosthetic finger system, and discuss the significance of the unique properties of Peano-HASELs when applied to the field of upper-limb prosthetic design. This approach toward clinically-relevant actuator performance paired with a substantially different form-factor compared to DC motors presents new opportunities to advance the field of prosthetic limb design. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
  3. This paper describes a system identification method and the development of a closed-loop controller for a Hydraulically Amplified Self-healing Electrostatic (HASEL) actuator. Our efforts focus on developing a reliable and consistent way to identify system models for these soft robotic actuators using high-speed videography based motion tracking. Utilizing a mass-spring-damper model we are able to accurately capture the behavior of a HASEL actuator. We use the resulting plant model to design a Proportional-Integral controller that demonstrates improved closed-loop tracking and steady-state error performance. 
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  4. Abstract

    Future robots and intelligent systems will autonomously navigate in unstructured environments and closely collaborate with humans; integrated with our bodies and minds, they will allow us to surpass our physical limitations. Traditional robots are mostly built from rigid, metallic components and electromagnetic motors, which make them heavy, expensive, unsafe near people, and ill‐suited for unpredictable environments. By contrast, biological organisms make extensive use of soft materials and radically outperform robots in terms of dexterity, agility, and adaptability. Particularly, natural muscle—a masterpiece of evolution—has long inspired researchers to create “artificial muscles” in an attempt to replicate its versatility, seamless integration with sensing, and ability to self‐heal. To date, natural muscle remains unmatched in all‐round performance, but rapid advancements in soft robotics have brought viable alternatives closer than ever. Herein, the recent development of hydraulically amplified self‐healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators, a new class of high‐performance, self‐sensing artificial muscles that couple electrostatic and hydraulic forces to achieve diverse modes of actuation, is discussed; current designs match or exceed natural muscle in many metrics. Research on materials, designs, fabrication, modeling, and control systems for HASEL actuators is detailed. In each area, research opportunities are identified, which together lays out a roadmap for actuators with drastically improved performance. With their unique versatility and wide potential for further improvement, HASEL actuators are poised to play an important role in a paradigm shift that fundamentally challenges the current limitations of robotic hardware toward future intelligent systems that replicate the vast capabilities of biological organisms.

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