Harnessing Viscous Flow to Simplify the Actuation of Fluidic Soft Robots
Soft robots powered by pressurized fluid have recently enabled a variety of innovative applications in areas as diverse as space exploration, search and rescue systems, biomimetics, medical surgery, and rehabilitation. Although soft robots have been demonstrated to be capable of performing a number of different tasks, they typically require independent inflation of their constituent actuators, resulting in multiple input lines connected to separate pressure supplies and a complex actuation process. To circumvent this limitation, we embed the actuation sequencing in the system by connecting fluidic actuators with narrow tubes to exploit the effects of viscous flow. We developed modeling and optimization tools to identify optimal tube characteristics and we demonstrate the inverse design of fluidic soft robots capable of achieving a variety of complex target responses when inflated with a single pressure input. Our study opens avenues toward the design of a new generation of fluidic soft robots with embedded actuation control, in which a single input line is sufficient to achieve a wide range of functionalities.