This paper presents an initial step towards a new class of soft robotics materials, where localized, geometric patterning of smart materials can exhibit discrete levels of stiffness through the combinations of smart materials used. This work is inspired by a variety of biological systems where actuation is accomplished by modulating the local stiffness in conjunction with muscle contractions. Whereas most biological systems use hydrostatic mechanisms to achieve stiffness variability, and many robotic systems have mimicked this mechanism, this work aims to use smart materials to achieve this stiffness variability. Here we present the compositing of the low melting point Field’s metal, shape memory alloy Nitinol, and a low melting point thermoplastic Polycaprolactone (PCL), composited in simple beam structure within silicone rubber. The comparison in bending stiffnesses at different temperatures, which reside between the activation temperatures of the composited smart materials demonstrates the ability to achieve discrete levels of stiffnesses within the soft robotic tissue.

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