This article presents a soft pneumatic bending actuator using a magnetically assisted bilayer composite composed of silicone polymer and ferromagnetic particles. Bilayer composites were fabricated by mixing ferromagnetic particles to a prepolymer state of silicone in a mold and asymmetrically distributed them by applying a strong non-uniform magnetic field to one side of the mold during the curing process. The biased magnetic field induces sedimentation of the ferromagnetic particles toward one side of the structure. The nonhomogeneous distribution of the particles induces bending of the structure when inflated, as a result of asymmetric stiffness of the composite. The bilayer composites were then characterized with a scanning electron microscopy and thermogravimetric analysis. The bending performance and the axial expansion of the actuator were discussed for manipulation applications in soft robotics and bioengineering. The magnetically assisted manufacturing process for the soft bending actuator is a promising technique for various applications in soft robotics.
Keywords: bilayer composite; ferromagnetic particles; non-uniform magnetic field; pneumatic bending actuator; soft actuator.