SOFT ROBOTIC APPENDAGES USING PNEUMATIC ARTIFICIAL MUSCLES
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This dissertation focuses on advancing the state of the art in soft robotics using pneumatic artificial (PAM) actuators. Pneumatic artificial muscles are currently used in robotic and prosthetic applications due to their high power to weight ratio, controllable compliance, and simple design. Contractile PAMs are typically used in traditional hard robotics in place of heavy electric motors. As the field of soft robotics grows, extensile PAMs are beginning to have increased usage. The bladder of a PAM affects common actuator performance metrics, specifically: blocked force, free contraction, hysteresis, and dead-band pressure. This work investigates the effect that bladder thickness has on static actuation performance of small scale PAMs. Miniature PAMs were fabricated with a range of bladder thicknesses then experimentally characterized in quasi-static conditions, where results showed that increasing bladder wall thickness decreases blocked force and free contraction, while the dead-band pressure increases. A nonlinear model was then applied to determine the structure of the stress-strain relationship that enables accurate modeling and the minimum number of terms. Contractile and extensile PAMs were experimentally fabricated and parametrically compared to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of each type of PAM and applications for which they are best suited. An additional PAM model was developed based on finite strain theory to address the lack of predicitive models. The closed-form pneumatic artificial muscle quasi-static actuator force is obtained. The analysis was experimentally validated using actuation force versus contraction ratio test data at a series of discrete inflation pressures for four different pneumatic artificial muscles, two contractile and two extensile. This work investigates adding bio-inspired ossicle structures from brittle stars to pneumatic artificial muscle continuum arm sections. The ossicle structure increases the range of motion and load capability of the continuum arm section while reducing the pneumatic pressure requirements. In this work, a static model of the continuum arm section is developed assuming constant curvature in the section and finding the center of mass of the section and its end plate. This model is validated by comparing the pressure-angle relationship at various loading conditions.