Designing a soft robot that can bend like a finger or knee may seem simple but the motion is actually incredibly complex. The design is so complicated because one actuator type is not enough to produce complex motions. The method developed by the team uses mathematical modeling of fluid-powered, fiber-reinforced actuators to optimize the design of an actuator to perform a certain motion.
The team used this model to design a soft robot that bends like an index finger and twists like a thumb when powered by a single pressure source. The new methodology will be included in the Soft Robotic Toolkit, an online, open-source resource developed at SEAS to assist researchers, educators and budding innovators to design, fabrication, model, characterize and control their own soft robots.