Soft robots have attracted much interest recently, due to their potential capability to work effectively in unstructured environment. Soft actuators are key components in soft robots. Dielectric elastomer actuators are one class of soft actuators, which can deform in response to voltage. Dielectric elastomer actuators exhibit interesting attributes including large voltage-induced deformation and high energy density. These attributes make dielectric elastomer actuators capable of functioning as artificial muscles for soft robots. It is significant to develop untethered robots, since connecting the cables to external power sources greatly limits the robots’ functionalities, especially autonomous movements. In this paper we develop a soft untethered robot based on dielectric elastomer actuators. This robot mainly consists of a deformable robotic body and two paper-based feet. The robotic body is essentially a dielectric elastomer actuator, which can expand or shrink at voltage on or off. In addition, the two feet can achieve adhesion or detachment based on the mechanism of electroadhesion. In general, the entire robotic system can be controlled by electricity or voltage. By optimizing the mechanical design of the robot (the size and weight of electric circuits), we put all these components (such as batteries, voltage amplifiers, control circuits, etc.) onto the robotic feet, and the robot is capable of realizing autonomous movements. Experiments are conducted to study the robot’s locomotion. Finite element method is employed to interpret the deformation of dielectric elastomer actuators, and the simulations are qualitatively consistent with the experimental observations.
Jiawei Cao, Lei Qin, Heow Pueh Lee, and Jian Zhu, "Development of a soft untethered robot using artificial muscle actuators," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 101631X (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 29, 2017; Published: 17 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2260375.
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