Hybrid Tele-Manipulation System Using a Sensorized 3-D-Printed Soft Robotic Gripper and a Soft Fabric-Based Haptic Glove


This paper presents a hybrid tele-manipulation system, comprising of a sensorized 3D-printed soft robotic gripper and a soft fabric-based haptic glove, that aim at improving grasping manipulation and providing sensing feedback to the operators. The flexible 3D-printed soft robotic gripper broadens what a robotic gripper can do, especially for grasping tasks where delicate objects such as glassware are involved. It consists of four pneumatic finger actuators, casings with through hole for housing the actuators, and adjustable base. The grasping length and width can be configured easily to suit a variety of objects. The soft haptic glove is equipped with flex sensors and soft pneumatic haptic actuator, which enables the users to control the grasping, to determine whether the grasp is successful and to identify the grasped object shape. The fabric-based soft pneumatic haptic actuator can simulate haptic perception by producing force feedback to the users. Both the soft pneumatic finger actuator and haptic actuator involve simple fabrication technique, namely 3D-printed approach and fabric-based approach respectively, which reduce fabrication complexity as compared to the steps involved in traditional silicone-based approach. The sensorized soft robotic gripper is capable of picking up and holding a wide variety of objects in this study, ranging from lightweight delicate object weighing less than 50 g to objects weighing 1100 g. The soft haptic actuator can produce forces of up to 2.1 N, which is more than the minimum force of 1.5 N needed to stimulate haptic perception. The subjects are able to differentiate the two objects with significant shape differences in the pilot test. Compared to the existing soft grippers, this is the first soft sensorized 3D-printed gripper, coupled with a soft fabric-based haptic glove, that has the potential to improve the robotic grasping manipulation by introducing haptic feedback to the users.

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