A bidirectional soft pneumatic fabric-based actuator for grasping applications

THIS paper presents the development of a bidirectional fabric-based soft pneumatic actuator requiring low fluid pressurization for actuation, which is incorporated into a soft robotic gripper to demonstrate its utility. The bidirectional soft fabric-based actuator is able to provide both flexion and extension. Fabrication of the fabric actuators is simple as compared to the steps involved in traditional silicone-based approach. In addition, the fabric actuators are able to generate comparably larger vertical grip resistive force at lower operating pressure than elastomeric actuators and 3D-printed actuators, being able to generate resistive grip force up to 20N at 120 kPa. Five of the bidirectional soft fabric-based actuators are deployed within a five-fingered soft robotic gripper, complete with five casings and a base. It is capable of grasping a variety of objects with maximum width or diameter closer to its bending curvature. A cutting task involved bimanual manipulation was demonstrated successfully with the gripper. To incorporate intelligent control for such a task, a soft force made completely of compliant material was attached to the gripper, which allows determination of whether the cutting task is completed. To the authors’ knowledge, this work is the first study which incorporates two soft robotic grippers for bimanual manipulation with one of the grippers sensorized to provide closed loop control

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