Indexed on: 01 Jan '19Published on: 23 Sep '19Published in: Chinese Journal of Mechanical Engineering
In current research on soft grippers, pneumatically actuated soft grippers are generally fabricated using fully soft materials, which have the advantage of flexibility as well as the disadvantages of a small gripping force and slow response speed. To improve these characteristics, a novel pneumatic soft gripper with a jointed endoskeleton structure (E-Gripper) is developed, in which the muscle actuating function has been separated from the force bearing function. The soft action of an E-Gripper finger is performed by some air chambers surrounded by multilayer rubber embedded in the restraining fiber. The gripping force is borne and transferred by the rigid endoskeleton within the E-Gripper finger. Thus, the gripping force and action response speed can be increased while the flexibility is maintained. Through experiments, the bending angle of each finger segment, response time, and gripping force of the E-Gripper have been measured, which provides a basis for designing and controlling the soft gripper. The test results have shown that the maximum gripping force of the E-Gripper can be 35 N, which is three times greater than that of a fully soft gripper (FS-Gripper) of the same size. At the maximum charging pressure of 150 kPa, the response time is 1.123 s faster than that of the FS-Gripper. The research results indicate that the flexibility of a pneumatic soft gripper is not only maintained in the case of the E-Gripper, but its gripping force is also obviously increased, and the response time is reduced. The E-Gripper thus shows great potential for future development and applications.