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An Active Connection Mechanism for Soft Modular Robots

  • Authors: Germann, Jürg Markus; Dommer, Michael; Pericet Camara, Ramon; Floreano, Dario

To date, most modular robotic systems lack flexibility when increasing the number of modules due to their hard building blocks and rigid connection mechanisms. In order to improve adaptation to environmental changes, softness on the module level might be beneficial. However, coping with softness requires fundamental rethinking the way modules are built. A major challenge is to develop a connection mechanism that does not limit the softness of the modules, does not require precise alignment and allows for easy detachment. In this paper, we propose a soft active connection mechanism based on electroadhesion. The mechanism uses electrostatic forces to connect modules. The method is easy to implement and can be integrated in a wide range of soft module types. Based on our experimental results, we conclude that the mechanism is suitable as a connection principle for light-weight modules when efficiency in a wide range of softness, tolerance to alignment and easy detachment are desired. The main contributions of this article are (i) the qualitative comparison of different connector principles for soft modular robots, (ii) the integration of electroadhesion, featuring a novel electrode pattern design, into soft modules, and (iii) the demonstration and characterization of the performance of functional soft module mockups including the connection mechanism.

Posted on: September 6, 2011

Stretchable Electroadhesion for Soft Robots

  • Authors: Germann, Jürg Markus; Schubert, Bryan Edward; Floreano, Dario

With the ongoing rise of soft robots there emerges a need for new soft robotic technologies that can cope with hyper-flexibility and stretchability. In this paper, we describe our developments on enabling controllable adhesion, namely electroadhesion, for the use in soft robots. We present a method to manufacture stretchable electroadhesive pads and characterize their performance when stretching the pad more than double its original length. Our results suggest that the normal detachment force per area slightly decreases with the stretching, while the shear detachment force per area increase with the stretch ratio. These results imply that stretchable electroadhesive pads have higher adaptivity to a given task compared to non-stretchable pads, because the stretchable pads are adaptable in terms of their mechanical stiffness as well as their adhesive force.

Posted on: May 19, 2014

Versatile soft grippers with intrinsic electroadhesion based on multifunctional polymer actuators

  • Authors: Shintake, Jun; Rosset, Samuel; Schubert, Bryan Edward; Floreano, Dario; Shea, Herbert

A highly versatile soft gripper that can handle an unprecedented range of object types is developed based on a new design of dielectric elastomer actuators employing an interdigitated electrode geometry, simultaneously maximizing both electroadhesion and electrostatic actuation while incorporating self-sensing. The multifunctionality of the actuator leads to a highly integrated, lightweight, fast, soft gripper with simplified structure and control.

Posted on: September 29, 2015