Date of Thesis

2014

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Charles Kim

Keywords

Elastofluidics, Soft robotics, Parallel architectures

Abstract

Creating organic, life like motion has historically been extremely difficult and costly for general applications. Traditional structures and robots use rigid components with discrete joints to produce desired motions but are limited in freedom by the range of motion each additional component allows. In a traditionally rigid robot complex motion is obtained through the addition of joints and links. These additions add complexity to a rigid robot but improve its ability to create motion. Soft robotics aims to overcome the limitations of traditional robotics by creating integrated actuation and structure which more closely imitates organic movement. Often the most effective examples to learn from are natural phenomenon or organisms such as underwater and land based invertebrates. In pursuit of the goal of effective soft robotics researchers have explored the idea of a pneumatic elastofluidic actuator, one which expands and deforms in response to applied pressure. While these systems have demonstrated some limited success, they are often used either as a single entity or in series with one another to produce novel motions. In this thesis parallel structures made of these actuators are shown to have the potential to be extremely powerful and useful for soft robotic applications. These spatial arrangements of connected and dependent actuators exhibit behaviors impossible for a single actuator. This research concerns the effective design and construction of these complex parallel structures in an attempt to define a method of characterization which produces useful and desirable spatial architectures and motions.

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