Friday, 21 August 2015

Dynamics and trajectory optimization for a soft spatial fluidic elastomer manipulator

The goal of this work is to develop a soft-robotic manipulation system that is capable of autonomous, dynamic, and safe interactions with humans and its environment. First, we develop a dynamic model for a multi-body fluidic elastomer manipulator that is composed entirely from soft rubber and subject to the self-loading effects of gravity. Then, we present a strategy for independently identifying all of the unknown components of the system; these are the soft manipulator, its distributed fluidic elastomer actuators, as well as the drive cylinders that supply fluid energy. Next, using this model and trajectory-optimization techniques we find locally-optimal open-loop policies that allow the system to perform dynamic maneuvers we call grabs. In 37 experimental trials with a physical prototype, we successfully perform a grab 92% of the time. Last, we introduce the idea of static bracing for a soft elastomer arm and discuss how forming environmental braces might be an effective manipulation strategy for this class of robots. By studying such an extreme example of a soft robot, we can begin to solve hard problems inhibiting the mainstream use of soft machines.

from robot theory


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