McKibben fluidic muscles or pneumatic muscle actuators (PMAs) are a popular orthosis actuator because of their inherent compliance, high force, and muscle-like load-displacement characteristics. However, the circular cross-section of PMA increases their profile. PMA are also notoriously unreliable and difficult to control, lacking the intelligent pain sensing systems of their biological muscle counterparts.
Here the Peano fluidic muscle, a new low profile yet high-force soft actuator is introduced. This muscle is smart, featuring bioinspired embedded pressure and soft capacitive strain sensors. Given this pressure and strain feedback, experimental validation shows that a lumped parameter model based on the muscle geometry and material parameters can be used to predict its force for quasistatic motion with an average error of 10 - 15N. Combining this with a force threshold pain sensing algorithm sets a precedent for flexible orthosis actuation that uses embedded sensors to prevent damage to the actuator and its environment.