A recent project conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory drew ideas from invertebrates to tackle material rigidity and limitations in actuation on robotic systems.
3-D Printed Active Materials Help Robots Achieve Flexibility
The robots currently used by the U.S. army are inflexible and hence have difficulties in carrying out various military operations in crammed urban pockets. They usually cannot maneuver easily – something which is required for military superiority. This is because most robots are connected with rigid electronic and mechanical components. Besides, such rigid robots also have complex electrical circuitries and mechanisms to accomplish active actuation and complicated motions.
To handle such limitations the team of scientists decided to study the movement of invertebrates. To simulate it in robots, they build prototypes of soft actuator leveraging active materials having highly tunable parameters, namely morphology, structural flexibility, and dynamic actuation.
The prototype is the maiden complete three dimensional printed dielectric elastomer actuator, also known as DEA. It can carry out high bending motion. The three dimensional printed DEAs demonstrated deflections almost thrice as much as other recent examples in scientific literature.
The findings of the successful experiment was published in Extreme Mechanics Letters.
As per Michael McAlpine, a professor at UMN, they set out with examining new ways of recreating the movement of invertebrates. This offered crucial in-depth peek into the mechanism of their soft distributed actuation circuitries which bring about motions requiring a lot of bending sans the support of the skeleton.