Nature has inspired a new generation of robots that not only imitate the behavior of natural systems but also share their adaptability to the environment and level of compliance due to the materials used to manufacture them, which are typically made of soft matter. In order to be adaptable and compliant, these robots need to be able to locally change the mechanical properties of their soft material-based bodies according to external feedback. In this work, a soft actuator that embodies a highly controllable thermo-responsive hydrogel and changes its stiffness on direct stimulation is proposed. At a critical temperature, this stimulation triggers the reversible transition of the hydrogel, which locally stiffens the elastomeric containment at the targeted location. By dividing the actuator into multiple sections, it is possible to control its macroscopic behavior as a function of the stiffened sections. These properties are evaluated by arranging three actuators into a gripper configuration used to grasp objects. The results clearly show that the approach can be used to develop soft actuators that can modify their mechanical properties on-demand in order to conform to objects or to exert the required force.

Selective Stiffening in Soft Actuators by Triggered Phase Transition of Hydrogel-Filled Elastomers

Visentin, F.
;
2021

Abstract

Nature has inspired a new generation of robots that not only imitate the behavior of natural systems but also share their adaptability to the environment and level of compliance due to the materials used to manufacture them, which are typically made of soft matter. In order to be adaptable and compliant, these robots need to be able to locally change the mechanical properties of their soft material-based bodies according to external feedback. In this work, a soft actuator that embodies a highly controllable thermo-responsive hydrogel and changes its stiffness on direct stimulation is proposed. At a critical temperature, this stimulation triggers the reversible transition of the hydrogel, which locally stiffens the elastomeric containment at the targeted location. By dividing the actuator into multiple sections, it is possible to control its macroscopic behavior as a function of the stiffened sections. These properties are evaluated by arranging three actuators into a gripper configuration used to grasp objects. The results clearly show that the approach can be used to develop soft actuators that can modify their mechanical properties on-demand in order to conform to objects or to exert the required force.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11562/1060676
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