Proceedings of the
9th International Conference of Asian Society for Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology (ASPEN2022)
15 – 18 November 2022, Singapore

Development of a Pneumatic Module for Reconfigurable Soft Robots

Yuzhe Wanga, Pradeep Janakiraman, Benjamin Wan Xiangxin and Pey Yuen Tao

Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, A*STAR, 2 Fusionopolis Way, Singapore 138634, Singapore


Reconfigurable soft robotic system is an emerging research field with the potential to make significant technological advances to future robotics. Reconfigurable soft robots can deliberately change their own shape with variable morphology, in order to adapt to confined environments, perform wide range of tasks, avoid causing damage, or prevent injury to co-workers. They possess many advantages such as high versatility, high value, and high robustness which may lead to a radical change in automation. In this work, a pneumatic soft actuator module is developed to expand the flexibility and dexterousness of soft robots. The hexagonal structures can provide minimal density, rapid response, high compression properties, high elongation rate and crush resistance, compared to hollow soft chambers. A blocking force of 45 N is achieved by a single soft chamber. This payload capability is beyond the maximum requirement for use at small scales where most soft robot applications are applied. The modular design adapts the concept of 'plug and play', which integrates all electronic and pneumatic components in the module through a common power and vacuum supply, allowing soft robots with many actuator modules to maintain simplicity and ease of implementation, especially by achieving scalability and avoiding problems with excessive cabling and routing when the degree of freedom increases. The developed pneumatic modules can be assembled in series to achieve a desired working envelope, and a high degree of kinematic maneuverability and flexibility can be achieved for manufacturing, machine maintenance, inspection, security checks, rescue, and space exploration tasks. It can also be used individually as an end-effector or a parallel platform to perform tasks in healthcare, biomimicry, and human-robot collaboration.

Keywords: Pneumatic Actuation, Reconfigurable Robots, Modular Soft Actuator.

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