Soft material-based pneumatic microtube actuators are attracting intense interest, since their bending motion is potentially useful for the safe manipulation of delicate biological objects. To increase their utility in biomedicine, researchers have begun to apply shape-engineering to the microtubes to diversify their bending patterns. However, design and analysis of such microtube actuators are challenging in general, due to their continuum natures and small dimensions. In this paper, we establish two methods for rapid design, analysis, and optimization of such complex, shape-engineered microtube actuators that are based on the line-segment model and the multi-segment Euler–Bernoulli’s beam model, respectively, and are less computation-intensive than the more conventional method based on finite element analysis. To validate the models, we first realized multi-segment microtube actuators physically, then compared their experimentally observed motions against those obtained from the models. We obtained good agreements between the three sets of results with their maximum bending-angle errors falling within ±11%. In terms of computational efficiency, our models decreased the simulation time significantly, down to a few seconds, in contrast with the finite element analysis that sometimes can take hours. The models reported in this paper exhibit great potential for rapid and facile design and optimization of shape-engineered soft actuators.
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