Electrically-driven direct current (DC) motors are the core component of conventional robots thanks to the ease of computer control and high torque for their size. However, DC motors are often manually attached and soldered into robotic assemblies, and they are not flexible. For soft robotics, researchers have looked to new, compliant materials that are compatible with 3-D printing or other automated assembly methods. In this work we use a computer-controlled embroidery machine to create flat motor windings in flexible fabrics. We model their electromagnetic fields and present them as linear actuators that move a permanent magnet attached to a cable. The fabrication method puts some constraints on the coil design, which are discussed. However, the planar nature of the embroidered sheets enables the designer to use laminar fabrication methods, such as stacking or layering into parts, during 3-D printing. The soft motor windings produced static holding forces of up to 0.25 N and could lift a 0.3 g mass several cm using direct drive. A 3-D printed mechanical amplifier with two stages was able to quadruple the lifting mass, reducing the travel by a factor of 4. Machine embroidery-installed cables and motor coils could lead to “bolts and nuts free” fabrication of thin, electrically-driven cable actuators.
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