Soft robotic and wearable robotic devices seek to exploit polymer based artificial muscles and sensor materials to generate biomimetic movements and forces. A challenge is to integrate the active materials into a complex, three-dimensional device with integrated electronics, power supplies and support structures. Both 3D printing and textiles technologies offer attractive fabrication strategies, but require suitable functional materials. 3D printing of actuating hydrogels has been developed to produce simple devices, such as a prototype valve. Tough hydrogels based on interpenetrating networks of ionicially crosslinked alginate and covalently crosslinked polyacrylamide and poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) have been developed in a form suitable for extrusion printing with UV curing. Combined with UV-curable and extrudable rigid acrylated urethanes, the tough hydrogels can be 3D printed into composite materials or complex shapes with multiple different materials. An actuating valve was printed that operated thermally to open or close the flow path using 6 parallel hydrogel actuators. Textile processing methods such as knitting and weaving can be used to generate assemblies of actuating fibres. Low cost and high performance coiled fibres made from oriented polymers have been used for developing actuating textiles. Similarly, braiding methods have been developed to fabricate new forms of McKibben muscles that operate without any external apparatus, such as pumps, compressors or piping.
Geoffrey M. Spinks, "Material and fabrication strategies for artificial muscles (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 101631P (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 29, 2017; Published: 10 May 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2261623.5427376509001.
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