Versatile vacuum-powered artificial muscles through replaceable external reinforcements

Front Robot AI. 2024 Jan 4:10:1289074. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2023.1289074. eCollection 2023.


Soft pneumatic artificial muscles are a well actuation scheme in soft robotics due to its key features for robotic machines being safe, lightweight, and conformable. In this work, we present a versatile vacuum-powered artificial muscle (VPAM) with manually tunable output motion. We developed an artificial muscle that consists of a stack of air chambers that can use replaceable external reinforcements. Different modes of operation are achieved by assembling different reinforcements that constrain the output motion of the actuator during actuation. We designed replaceable external reinforcements to produce single motions such as twisting, bending, shearing and rotary. We then conducted a deformation and lifting force characterization for these motions. We demonstrated sophisticated motions and reusability of the artificial muscle in two soft machines with different modes of locomotion. Our results show that our VPAM is reusable and versatile producing a variety and sophisticated output motions if needed. This key feature specially benefits unpredicted workspaces that require a soft actuator that can be adjusted for other tasks. Our scheme has the potential to offer new strategies for locomotion in machines for underwater or terrestrial operation, and wearable devices with different modes of operation.

Keywords: artificial muscle; replaceable reinforcements; reusable; soft actuator; soft robotics; versatile.

Grants and funding

The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This work was supported by Harvard UTEC faculty grant and FONDECYT Peru under contract N° 105-2021-FONDECYT Proyectos de Investigación Aplicada y Desarrollo Tecnológico.