Natural organisms use a combination of contracting muscles and inextensible fibers to transform into controllable shapes, camouflage into their surrounding environment, and catch prey. Replicating these capabilities with engineered materials is challenging because of the difficulty in manufacturing and controlling soft material actuators with embedded fibers. In addition, while linear and bending motions are common in soft actuators, rotary motions require three-dimensional fiber wrapping or multiple bending or linear elements working in coordination that are challenging to design and fabricate. In this work, an automatic embroidery machine patterned Kevlar™ fibers and stretchable optical fibers into inflatable silicone membranes to control their inflated shape and enable sensing. This embroidery-based fabrication technique is simple, low cost, and allows for precise and custom patterning of fibers in elastomers. Using this technique, we developed inflatable elastomeric actuators embedded with a planar spiral pattern of high-strength Kevlar™ fibers that inflate into radially symmetric shapes and achieve nearly 180° angular rotation and 10 cm linear displacement.
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