Three papers to be presented at RoboSoft

Shivangi Misra, Chris Kim, and Rongqian Chen will be sharing their work at RoboSoft this year!

Shivangi Misra, Cynthia Sung: Online Optimization of Soft Manipulator Mechanics via Hierarchical Control. 7th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft), 2024.

Abstract: Actively tuning mechanical properties in soft robots is now feasible due to advancements in soft actuation technologies. In soft manipulators, these novel actuators can be distributed over the robot body to allow greater control over its large number of degrees of freedom and to stabilize local deformations against a range of disturbances. In this paper, we present a hierarchical policy for stiffness control for such a class of soft manipulators. The stiffness changes induce desired deformations in each segment, thereby influencing the manipulator’s end-effector position. The algorithm can be run as an online controller to influence the manipulator’s stable states – as we demonstrate in simulation – or offline as a design algorithm to optimize stiffness distributions – as we showcase in a hardware demonstration. Our proposed hierarchical control scheme is agnostic to the stiffness actuation method and can extend to other soft manipulators with nonuniform stiffness distributions.

Christopher Kim, Lele Yang, Ashwath Anbuchelvan, Raghav Garg, Niv Milbar, Flavia Vitale, Cynthia Sung: Origami-Inspired Bistable Gripper with Self-Sensing Capabilities. IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics (Robosoft), 2024.

Abstract: An origami-inspired bistable gripper, featuring a dual-function custom PET linear solenoid actuator that acts both as an actuator and a sensor, is presented. Movements in the permanent magnet plunger, which is directly mounted to the gripper, create induced electromotive force (emf) in the solenoid, and these induced emf measurements are used to detect snap-through actions and light contacts on the gripper. The fabrication methods for the gripper, actuator, and a gel-free soft wearable EMG electrode are outlined, and the actuator’s self-sensing method utilizing the time-integral of the induced emf measurements are explored. Because a self-sensing actuator eliminates the need for extra sensors, it allows for further miniaturization of the robot while maintaining its compactness and lightweight design. The paper also introduces a full human-in-the-loop system, allowing users to open or close the gripper with their biceps via a wearable EMG electrode. This system bridges human intent with robotic action, offering a more intuitive interaction model for robotic control.

Rongqian Chen, Jun Kwon, Wei-Hsi Chen, Cynthia Sung: Design and Characterization of a Pneumatic Tunable-Stiffness Bellows Actuator. IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft), 2024.

Abstract: We introduce a self-contained pneumatic actuator capable of 1.43 times stiffness gain from 1332 N/m to 1913 N/m without needing an external air source or valve. The design incorporates an air chamber bellows and a spring bellows, connected and sealed. Stiffness modulation is achieved by altering the air chamber volume. We present an approach for computing the volume, pressurized force, and stiffness of a single bellows component, as well as methods for composing single bellows models to predict the change in stiffness of the dual bellows actuator as a function of air chamber compression. We detail the fabrication of the actuator and verify the models on the fabricated prototype. This actuator holds promise for future integration in tunable stiffness robots demanding high strength and adaptability in dynamic scenarios.