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Actuators 2015, 4(3), 203-216;

Elastic Cube Actuator with Six Degrees of Freedom Output

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TR, UK
Structures and Composites Laboratory, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
Soft Robotics group, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Delbert Tesar
Received: 8 July 2015 / Revised: 20 August 2015 / Accepted: 26 August 2015 / Published: 7 September 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [683 KB, uploaded 7 September 2015]   |  


Unlike conventional rigid actuators, soft robotic technologies possess inherent compliance, so they can stretch and twist along every axis without the need for articulated joints. This compliance is exploited here using dielectric elastomer membranes to develop a novel six degrees of freedom (6-DOF) polymer actuator that unifies ordinarily separate components into a simple cubic structure. This cube actuator design incorporates elastic dielectric elastomer membranes on four faces which are coupled by a cross-shaped end effector. The inherent elasticity of each membrane greatly reduces kinematic constraint and enables a 6-DOF actuation output to be produced via the end effector. An electro-mechanical model of the cube actuator is presented that captures the non-linear hyperelastic behaviour of the active membranes. It is demonstrated that the model accurately predicts actuator displacement and blocking moment for a range of input voltages. Experimental testing of a prototype 60 mm device demonstrates 6-DOF operation. The prototype produces maximum linear and rotational displacements of ±2.6 mm (±4.3%) and ±4.8° respectively and a maximum blocking moment of ±76 mNm. The capacity for full 6-DOF actuation from a compact, readily scalable and easily fabricated polymeric package enables implementation in a range of mechatronics and robotics applications. View Full-Text
Keywords: multi-axis actuators; soft robotics; dielectric elastomer; electro-active polymers; hyperelastic modelling multi-axis actuators; soft robotics; dielectric elastomer; electro-active polymers; hyperelastic modelling

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Wang, P.; Conn, A.T. Elastic Cube Actuator with Six Degrees of Freedom Output. Actuators 2015, 4, 203-216.

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