THE DESIGN OF A RECONFIGURABLE TEXTILEBASED BENDING ACTUATOR USING MODULAR BLADDERS FOR SOFT ROBOTIC EXOSUITS
Rainier Natividad1, Chen Hua Yeow1,2
1National University of Singapore, Singapore; 2Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology
The action of externally mounted, pneumatic bladders, attached to a flexible air channel, is utilized as a soft robotic bending actuator. A series of these bladders are plugged into the actuator and are simultaneously inflated that cause interference between the inflated bladders. The interference generates pushing forces, which in turn facilitate the bending of the flexible, non-expanding air channel. The nature of the bladders allows them to be detachable, hence, enabling the actuator to be fully reconfigurable. Soft robotic bending actuators typically possess only one curvature profile such that if a different profile is desired, the actuator must be completely redesigned and reconstructed. In contrast, the use of modular bladders permits them to be interchanged as needed, which allows the textile-based bending actuator to be customized and specialized for a particular purpose. Bladders featuring varying geometries can also be combined to create a curvature profile with multiple bending radii and angles. Such features are beneficial to robotic exosuits as these suits can now be tailor fit to the various anthropomorphic variabilities between different users by simply removing the current bladders and installing more appropriate ones. The bladders are constructed out of laminated textile sheets, joined together by thermal bonding. This work discusses key design considerations as well performance metrics, describing the capabilities of the actuator.