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Bio-Inspired Soft Robot for Locomotion and Navigation in Restricted Spaces

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>29/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Robotics and Automation
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)236-250
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Soft robotics have been shown to be particularly versatile for accessing restricted and hazardous environments, such as nuclear and chemical processing plants, and pipelines. This paper presents a bio-inspired soft robot capable of propelling
itself inside a cylindrical space. The continuum soft robot consists of three main sections, which, with coordinated inflation and deflation, enable a controlled locomotion of the robot. The sections are composed of two types of soft
actuator: Radially-expandable cylindrical modules (RECMs) and vacuum-actuated muscle-inspired pneumatic structures (VAMPs). In this paper, the details of the soft actuators’ design and support structures are described. Tests conducted on
the actuators verify their suitability for performing a number of specific motion tasks, including bending and navigation in restricted vertical and horizontal environments. The preliminary experimental results indicate that the bio-inspired design approach enables the soft components to move dexterously inside the restricted environment, perform longitudinal shifts of 28% its original length in one motion cycle, and lift loads up to 150 g per VAMP. These observations were
confirmed using finite element analysis. The robot can also be safely and remotely operated to enable an efficient control of the robots’ soft actuators. The possibility of moving with infinite degrees of freedom and safely interact with humans provide the robot with the potential of being employed in wide ranging application in industry and research.