Soft robotic actuators offer many advantages over their rigid counterparts, but they often are unable to apply highly localized point loads. In contrast, many invertebrates have not only evolved extremely strong "hybrid appendages" that are composed of rigid ends that can grasp, puncture, and anchor into solid substrates, but they also are compliant and resilient, owing to the functionally graded architecture that integrates rigid termini with their flexible and highly extensible soft musculatures. Inspired by the design principles of these natural hybrid appendages, we demonstrate a synthetic hybrid end effector for soft-bodied robots that exhibits excellent piercing abilities. Through the incorporation of functionally graded interfaces, this design strategy minimizes stress concentrations at the junctions adjoining the fully rigid and soft components and optimizes the bending stiffness to effectively penetrate objects without interfacial failure under shear and compressive loading regimes. In this composite architecture, the radially aligned tooth-like elements apply balanced loads to maximize puncturing ability, resulting in the coordinated fracture of an object of interest.
Keywords: bioinspired robotics; hybrid end effectors; multi-material 3D printing.