Rapid Design and Production of Soft Actuators using Dynamic Modeling and Additive Manufacturing for Underwater Soft Actuators

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Soft robotic actuators have repeatedly demonstrated their utility for underwater manipulation, particularly in the deep sea with delicate biological creatures and fragile artifacts. Up to this point, soft robotic actuators and gripping modules have been limited to relatively small prototypes that are on the same scale as a human hand. Scaling soft robotic grippers to larger sizes is a non-trivial task due to two major challenges: design and manufacturing. In this work, we present a complete and streamlined workflow of modeling, manufacturing, and testing scalable soft actuators that are directly produced using additive manufacturing methods and finite element modeling (FEA). The presented workflow is an iterative approach that uses information gathered from the FEA's simulation to further improve the simplified known initial model. To demonstrate this new workflow, a series of soft actuator designs were modeled, created and tested. Additionally, a more complex theoretical actuator design that has a non-uniform bending geometry is created and modeled. Once the actuator design matches what is desired, additive manufacturing is used to physically create it. Using this full process, an actuator design is easily scaled to almost three times its original length and is manufactured in under 36 hours. The scaled up actuators are arranged in a custom full gripping array to grasp a cylinder underwater in a predictive manner.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Proceedings of the American Control Conference