Soft pneumatic actuators could get smaller with high-res 3d printing process

Researchers have proposed a process flow to guide the 3D printing of miniature soft pneumatic actuators that are smaller than a coin. A soft debris remover with an integrated miniature gripper can navigate through confined spaces and collect small objects in hard-to-reach positions. Source: Singapore University of Technology and Design

Soft robots are a class of robotic systems made of compliant materials. Small robots at millimeter scale can be designed as a combination of miniature soft pneumatic actuators. The design complexity of such robots demands great delicacy when they are fabricated with traditional processes such as molding and soft lithography.

3D printing enables microscale soft pneumatic actuators

Researchers at SUSTech used DLP 3D printing to fabricate miniature soft robotic actuators. Photo-absorbers are commonly added into polymer solutions to enhance the printing resolutions in both lateral and vertical directions. Overly increasing the dose leads to rapid degradation in the material’s elasticity.

The Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo focuses on improving the design, development and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics engineering Forum at the forum’s website.

Potential applications

The proposed approach paves the way for 3D printing miniature soft robots with complex geometries and sophisticated multimaterial designs. This integration of printed miniature soft pneumatic actuators into a robotic system offers opportunities for potential applications such as jet-engine maintenance and minimally invasive surgery.

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