A modular soft robotic wrist for underwater manipulation
Document Type Article
This article presents the development of modular soft robotic wrist joint mechanisms for delicate and precise manipulation in the harsh deep-sea environment. The wrist consists of a rotary module and bending module, which can be combined with other actuators as part of a complete manipulator system. These mechanisms are part of a suite of soft robotic actuators being developed for deep-sea manipulation via submersibles and remotely operated vehicles, and are designed to be powered hydraulically with seawater. The wrist joint mechanisms can also be activated with pneumatic pressure for terrestrial-based applications, such as automated assembly and robotic locomotion. Here we report the development and characterization of a suite of rotary and bending modules by varying fiber number and silicone hardness. Performance of the complete soft robotic wrist is demonstrated in normal atmospheric conditions using both pneumatic and hydraulic pressures for actuation and under high ambient hydrostatic pressures equivalent to those found at least 2300 m deep in the ocean. This rugged modular wrist holds the potential to be utilized at full ocean depths (>10,000 m) and is a step forward in the development of jointed underwater soft robotic arms.