Soft actuators have drawn significant attentions from researchers with an inherently compliant design to address the safety issues in physical human-robot interactions. However, they are also vulnerable and pose new challenges in the design, fabrication, and analysis due to their inherent material softness. In this paper, a novel hybrid actuator design is presented with bio-inspirations from the lobster, or crustaceans in a broader perspective. We enclose a soft chamber with rectangular crosssection using a series of articulated rigid shells to produce bending under pneumatic input. By mimicking the shell pattern of lobsters’ abdomen, foldable rigid shells are designed to provide the soft actuator with full protection throughout the motion range. The articulation of the rigid shells predefines the actuator’s bending motions. As a result, the proposed design enables one to analyze this hybrid actuator with simplified quasi-static models and rigid-body kinematics, which are further validated by mechanical tests. This paper demonstrates that the proposed hybrid actuator design is capable of bridging the major design drawbacks of the entirely rigid and soft robots while preserving their engineering merits in performance.

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