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Bio-Design and Manufacturing  2019 Vol.2 No.4 P.256-268

10.1007/s42242-019-00055-6


Multidirectional 3D-printed functionally graded modular joint actuated by TCPFL muscles for soft robots


Author(s):  Armita Hamidi, Yara Almubarak, Yonas Tadesse

Affiliation(s):  Humanoid, Bio-robotics and Smart Systems (HBS) Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering DepartmentThe University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

Corresponding email(s):   armita.hamidi@utdallas.edu

Key Words:  Functionally graded, 3D-printed, Joint, Multidirectional, Fishing line TCP


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Armita Hamidi, Yara Almubarak, Yonas Tadesse. Multidirectional 3D-printed functionally graded modular joint actuated by TCPFL muscles for soft robots[J]. Journal of Zhejiang University Science D, 2019, 2(4): 256-268.

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Abstract: 
Highly deformable bodies are essential for numerous types of applications in all sorts of environments. joint-like structures comprising a ball and socket joint have many degrees of freedom that allow mobility of many biomimetic structures. Recently, soft robots are favored over rigid structures for their highly compliant material, high-deformation properties at low forces, and ability to operate in difficult environments. However, it is still challenging to fabricate complex designs that satisfy application constraints due to the combined effects of material properties, actuation method, and structural geometry on the performance of the soft robot. Therefore, a combination of a rigid joint and a soft body can help achieve modular robots with fully functional body morphology. Yet, the fabrication of soft parts requires extensive molding for complex shapes, which comprises several processes and can be time-consuming. In addition, molded connections between extremely soft materials and hard materials can be critical failing points. In this paper, we present a functionally graded 3D-printed joint-like structure actuated by novel contractile actuators. functionally graded materials (FGMs) via 3D printing allow for extensive material property enhancement and control which warrant tunable functionalities of the system. The 3D-printed structure is made of 3 rigid ball and socket joints connected in series and actuated by integrating twisted and coiled polymer fishing line (TCPFL) actuators, which are confined in the FGM accordion-shaped channels. The implementation of the untethered TCPFL actuation system can be highly beneficial for deployment in environments that require low vibrations and silent actuation. The fishing line TCP actuators produce an actuation strain up to 40% and bend the joint up to 40° in any direction. The TCPFL can be actuated individually or as a group to control the bending trajectory of the modular joint, which is beneficial when deployed in areas that contain small crevices. Obtaining complex modes of bending, the FGM multidirectional joint demonstrated a great potential to achieve different functionalities such as crawling, rolling, swimming, or underwater exploration.

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