Abstract

This paper presents a layering approach for the manufacturing of pneumatic soft actuators as a coalesced solution to the diverse array of existing fabrication methods. While most research groups have developed their own (often tedious) fabrication strategies for soft actuators, these methods are usually based on available equipment and project-specific design requirements, making them impractical for use in other laboratories. In contrast, the layered substrate approach enables repeatable production of highly-capable pneumatic actuators that can be easily customized to suit a variety of applications. Here we propose layering fiber-reinforced silicone on both sides of a thin pneumatic chamber to directionally constrain expansion. Similar in concept to the Venus flytrap, pressurization of the chamber causes the module to deform and expand where unrestrained. Strategic orientation and patterning of the fiber reinforcement layers results in multiple unique shear and bending capabilities upon pressurization. Combinations of multiple reinforced pneumatic units in series or parallel could match the capabilities of most soft pneumatic actuators, while requiring only simple, universal fabrication methods that may be replicated by other research groups.

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