Soft pneumatic actuators (SPAs) are versatile robotic components enabling diverse and complex soft robot hardware design. However, due to inherent material characteristics exhibited by their primary constitutive material, silicone rubber, they often lack robustness and repeatability in performance. In this article, we present a novel SPA-based bending module design with shell reinforcement. The bidirectional soft actuator presented here is enveloped in a Yoshimura patterned origami shell, which acts as an additional protection layer covering the SPA while providing specific bending resilience throughout the actuator’s range of motion. Mechanical tests are performed to characterize several shell folding patterns and their effect on the actuator performance. Details on design decisions and experimental results using the SPA with origami shell modules and performance analysis are presented; the performance of the bending module is significantly enhanced when reinforcement is provided by the shell. With the aid of the shell, the bending module is capable of sustaining higher inflation pressures, delivering larger blocked torques, and generating the targeted motion trajectory.
Posted on: September 6, 2016