Pneumatically Actuated Soft Gripper with Bistable Structures.

Research paper by Zheng Z Zhang, Xiangqi X Ni, Helong H Wu, Min M Sun, Guanjun G Bao, Huaping H Wu, Shaofei S Jiang

Indexed on: 09 Jan '21Published on: 09 Jan '21Published in: Soft Robotics


This study presents the design and test of a novel self-adaptive soft gripper, integrating pneumatic actuators and bistable carbon-fiber reinforced polymer laminates. The morphology was designed using the distinct structural characteristics of bistable structures; and the stable gripping configuration of the gripper was maintained through the bistability without continuous pressure application. The sufficient compliance of bistable structures makes the gripper versatile and adaptable to gripping deformable objects. First, a pneumatic-actuated method was introduced to achieve the reversible shape transition of the bistable structure. Next, three arrangement methods for actuators were analyzed with respect to the bistable transition and curvature, where it was found that the cross-arrangement is optimal. The effects of pneumatic actuators with different geometrical parameters on the response times are discussed, and the results show that the bistable structure can achieve shape transition within milliseconds under low pressure. Furthermore, the numerical and experimental results show good agreement between critical pressures and out-of-plane deformation. Furthermore, the shape retention function of the soft gripper was studied by using it to grasp objects of various sizes even when the pressure was reduced to the initial state. The bistable laminates exhibit sufficient compliance, and the deformed laminates can automatically accommodate the deformation of objects. The relationship between the weight and size of available gripping objects was studied; functional tests confirmed that the proposed soft gripper is versatile and adaptable for gripping objects of various shapes, sizes, and weights. This gripper has immense potential to reduce energy consumption in vacuum environments such as underwater and space.