Artificial Muscles for Biorobotics: Study, Application and Future Perspectives

A special issue of Actuators (ISSN 2076-0825). This special issue belongs to the section "Actuators for Robotics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 March 2023) | Viewed by 27677

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering DIMEAS, Politecnico di Torino, 10129 Turin, Italy
Interests: robotics; mechatronics; industrial automation; fluid power transmissions; biomechanics; biomedical engineering
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Guest Editor
Department of Engineering for Innovation Medicine, Section of Engineering and Physics, University of Verona, 37134 Verona, Italy
Interests: mechanics of machines; compliant mechanisms; soft-mechatronics; variable stiffness actuators; force/torque sensors; cable-driven mechanisms; multibody dynamics; bio-mechanics; micro-mechanisms; micro electro-mechanical systems; energy-harvesting; robotics; surgical robotics; haptics; teleoperation; surgical robotic tools; sustainable design; mechanical intelligence; legged robots; exoskeletons
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The first examples of artificial muscles can be traced back to the 1950s, with the invention of the McKibben pneumatic muscle. This type of actuator, thanks to its intrinsic flexibility and biomimetics, immediately found numerous applications in the fields of biomechanics and soft robotics. In recent years, the evolution of materials technology has led to the creation of new examples of artificial muscles, which can exploit novel pneumatic actuator shapes, as well as shape memory alloys or new dielectric elastomers. All this, together with the use of original control techniques, has led to amazing developments in the biorobotics field—that is, the creation of robotic devices interacting with biological organisms, or able to imitate them (biomimetic robotics).

Prof. Dr. Carlo Ferraresi
Dr. Giovanni Gerardo Muscolo
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Artificial muscles 
  • Biorobotics 
  • Biomimetic robotics 
  • Novel pneumatic muscles 
  • New materials for artificial muscles 
  • Novel control techniques 
  • Biomedical applications

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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16 pages, 5072 KiB  
Article
A Preliminary Virtual Study on the Feasibility of Transferring Muscular Activation Pattern Behaviors of Psychomotor Exercises
by Fabio Rossi, Álvaro González Mejía, Danilo Demarchi, Paolo Fiorini and Giovanni Gerardo Muscolo
Actuators 2023, 12(7), 294; https://doi.org/10.3390/act12070294 - 19 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1374
Abstract
Research has demonstrated that Taekwondo training helps to enhance the coordination capabilities in people with developmental coordination disorders. These excellent results depend on many factors, including the behavior of the muscular activation patterns of psychomotor exercises during Taekwondo training. Our basic idea is [...] Read more.
Research has demonstrated that Taekwondo training helps to enhance the coordination capabilities in people with developmental coordination disorders. These excellent results depend on many factors, including the behavior of the muscular activation patterns of psychomotor exercises during Taekwondo training. Our basic idea is to study the behavior of the muscular activation pattern of Taekwondo training (performed by athletes) and to apply the adapted behavior of the muscular activation pattern to other subjects with reduced coordination capabilities to enhance them, in line with the sustainable human development goals. This paper presents a preliminary feasibility study and a first step in this direction using a virtual simulation. First, the Taekwondo front-kick exercise was studied and reproduced using a virtual human model in OpenSim. Second, some perturbations were applied to the virtual human model to analyze the behavior of the muscular activation patterns. Third, functional electrical stimulation (FES) patterns were properly simulated to reproduce the same sequence (and value) of signals of muscular activation in another subject. The proposed methodology was conceived on the basis of a simple example of a Taekwondo kick by using a virtual human model, but its general application can fit all kinds of psychomotor exercises. If future works confirm the simulation results presented in this paper with real implementation, the methodology proposed here could be applied every time human capabilities must be increased with or without sports training (e.g., remaining seated on a chair or lying on a bed). Full article
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19 pages, 9996 KiB  
Article
Analysis of the Antagonistic Arrangement of Pneumatic Muscles Inspired by a Biological Model of the Human Arm
by Peter Tuleja, Rudolf Jánoš, Ján Semjon, Marek Sukop and Peter Marcinko
Actuators 2023, 12(5), 204; https://doi.org/10.3390/act12050204 - 17 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1369
Abstract
Technical solutions based on biological models are the subject of research by a wide range of experts and mainly concern their mechanical use. When designing a suitable actuator, they use the physical methods of biological representatives, of which a large group consists of [...] Read more.
Technical solutions based on biological models are the subject of research by a wide range of experts and mainly concern their mechanical use. When designing a suitable actuator, they use the physical methods of biological representatives, of which a large group consists of actuators generally referred to as artificial muscles, while another group uses compressed air as an energy carrier. In order to perform the measurements described in this article, a test mechanism based on the opposing arrangement of a pair of pneumatic muscles was constructed. Measurements on the test mechanism were made at set constant pressures in the range of 0.4 MPa to 0.6 MPa, while at each pressure, measurements were made for the counterload range from 0 N to 107.87 N. The measured values were recorded using a microcontroller and subsequently processed into graphic outputs. As part of the measurements, a comparative measurement of the same opposite arrangement of a pair of linear double-acting pneumatic actuators with a single-sided piston rod was also performed. The experiment and measurements were carried out in order to determine the suitability of using pneumatic artificial muscles in the selected arrangement for the implementation of a mechanism imitating the human arm. The target parameters of the experiment were the reaction speed of the course of force when filling the muscle under load and the reaction of the mechanism to a change in the set pressure in the pneumatic system. The summary of the comparison of the measured results is the content of the discussion in this article. Full article
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14 pages, 3165 KiB  
Article
Analysis of Pneumatic Artificial Muscles and the Inelastic Braid Assumption
by Jonathan M. Chambers and Norman M. Wereley
Actuators 2022, 11(8), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11080219 - 4 Aug 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1746
Abstract
Pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) are becoming an increasingly popular form of soft actuator due to their unique actuation characteristics. The creation of accurate PAM actuation models is important for their successful implementation. However, PAM studies often employ actuation models that use simplifying assumptions [...] Read more.
Pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) are becoming an increasingly popular form of soft actuator due to their unique actuation characteristics. The creation of accurate PAM actuation models is important for their successful implementation. However, PAM studies often employ actuation models that use simplifying assumptions which make the models easier to formulate and use, but at the cost of reduced accuracy. One of the most commonly used assumptions, the inelastic braid assumption, suggests that the braid does not stretch, and therefore would not affect its geometry or actuation force. Although this assumption has often been cited as a likely source of model error, its use has persevered for decades due to researchers’ inability to directly measure the effects of braid elasticity. The recent development of a photogrammetric method to accurately measure PAM geometry now enables this analysis. This study seeks to assess the current default adoption of the inelastic braid assumption in PAM models by attempting to quantify the braid elasticity effects. This research finds that current models that use the inelastic braid assumption can underestimate PAM diameter by as much as 30%, and overestimate actuation force by as much as 70%. These results show that braid elasticity can have a substantial effect on the geometry and actuation force of PAMs, and demonstrates that the inelastic braid assumption may not be a suitable universal assumption for PAM modeling and analyses, especially when low-stiffness braid materials are used. Full article
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23 pages, 4226 KiB  
Article
Dynamics and Computed-Muscle-Force Control of a Planar Muscle-Driven Snake Robot
by Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani
Actuators 2022, 11(7), 194; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11070194 - 16 Jul 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2054
Abstract
This paper presents the dynamic formulation of an artificial-muscle-driven and computed-muscle–force control for the planar locomotion of a snake robot. The snake robot uses a series of antagonistic pneumatic artificial muscles, assembled at the joints, to generate the locomotion. Kinematics of the artificial-muscle-driven [...] Read more.
This paper presents the dynamic formulation of an artificial-muscle-driven and computed-muscle–force control for the planar locomotion of a snake robot. The snake robot uses a series of antagonistic pneumatic artificial muscles, assembled at the joints, to generate the locomotion. Kinematics of the artificial-muscle-driven robot in the joint and Cartesian spaces was derived with respect to the muscles’ motion. The Lagrangian mechanics was employed for the formulation of the dynamic model of the robot and deriving the equations of motion. A model-based computed-muscle-force control was designed to track the desired paths/trajectories in Cartesian space. The feedback linearization method based on a change of coordinate was utilized to determine an equivalent linear (input-to-state) system. Then, a full state feedback control law was designed, which satisfies the stability and tracking problems. The performance of the dynamic model and the controller were successfully demonstrated in simulation studies for tracking a circle-shape path and a square-shape path with a constant linear velocity while generating the lateral undulation gait. The results indicate a low magnitude of tracking errors where the controlled muscle force are bounded to the actual pneumatic artificial muscle’s limitations. Full article
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15 pages, 4351 KiB  
Article
Modeling-Based EMG Signal (MBES) Classifier for Robotic Remote-Control Purposes
by Michele Gabrio Antonelli, Pierluigi Beomonte Zobel, Francesco Durante and Mohammad Zeer
Actuators 2022, 11(3), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11030065 - 22 Feb 2022
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3453
Abstract
The fast-growing human–robot collaboration predicts that a human operator could command a robot without mechanical interface if effective communication channels are established. In noisy, vibrating and light sensitive environments, some sensors for detecting the human intention could find critical issues to be adopted. [...] Read more.
The fast-growing human–robot collaboration predicts that a human operator could command a robot without mechanical interface if effective communication channels are established. In noisy, vibrating and light sensitive environments, some sensors for detecting the human intention could find critical issues to be adopted. On the contrary, biological signals, as electromyographic (EMG) signals, seem to be more effective. In order to command a laboratory collaborative robot powered by McKibben pneumatic muscles, promising actuators for human–robot collaboration due to their inherent compliance and safety features have been researched, a novel modeling-based electromyographic signal (MBES) classifier has been developed. It is based on one EMG sensor, a Myotrac one, an Arduino Uno and a proper code, developed in the Matlab environment, that performs the EMG signal recognition. The classifier can recognize the EMG signals generated by three hand-finger movements, regardless of the amplitude and time duration of the signal and the muscular effort, relying on three mathematical models: exponential, fractional and Gaussian. These mathematical models have been selected so that they are the best fitting with the EMG signal curves. Each of them can be assigned a consent signal for performing the wanted pick-and-place task by the robot. An experimental activity was carried out to test and achieve the best performance of the classifier. The validated classifier was applied for controlling three pressure levels of a McKibben-type pneumatic muscle. Encouraging results suggest that the developed classifier can be a valid command interface for robotic purposes. Full article
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Review

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26 pages, 4597 KiB  
Review
The Research on Soft Pneumatic Actuators in Italy: Design Solutions and Applications
by Maria Paterna, Carlo De Benedictis and Carlo Ferraresi
Actuators 2022, 11(11), 328; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11110328 - 10 Nov 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3537
Abstract
Interest in soft actuators has increased enormously in the last 10 years. Thanks to their compliance and flexibility, they are suitable to be employed to actuate devices that must safely interact with humans or delicate objects or to actuate bio-inspired robots able to [...] Read more.
Interest in soft actuators has increased enormously in the last 10 years. Thanks to their compliance and flexibility, they are suitable to be employed to actuate devices that must safely interact with humans or delicate objects or to actuate bio-inspired robots able to move in hostile environments. This paper reviews the research on soft pneumatic actuators conducted in Italy, focusing on mechanical design, analytical modeling, and possible application. A classification based on the geometry is proposed, since a wide set of architectures and manufacturing solutions are available. This aspect is confirmed by the extent of scenarios in which researchers take advantage of such systems’ improved flexibility and functionality. Several applications regarding bio-robotics, bioengineering, wearable devices, and more are presented and discussed. Full article
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53 pages, 71001 KiB  
Review
Soft Gloves: A Review on Recent Developments in Actuation, Sensing, Control and Applications
by Monica Tiboni and Cinzia Amici
Actuators 2022, 11(8), 232; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11080232 - 10 Aug 2022
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5234
Abstract
Interest in soft gloves, both robotic and haptic, has enormously grown over the past decade, due to their inherent compliance, which makes them particularly suitable for direct interaction with the human hand. Robotic soft gloves have been developed for hand rehabilitation, for ADLs [...] Read more.
Interest in soft gloves, both robotic and haptic, has enormously grown over the past decade, due to their inherent compliance, which makes them particularly suitable for direct interaction with the human hand. Robotic soft gloves have been developed for hand rehabilitation, for ADLs assistance, or sometimes for both. Haptic soft gloves may be applied in virtual reality (VR) applications or to give sensory feedback in combination with prostheses or to control robots. This paper presents an updated review of the state of the art of soft gloves, with a particular focus on actuation, sensing, and control, combined with a detailed analysis of the devices according to their application field. The review is organized on two levels: a prospective review allows the highlighting of the main trends in soft gloves development and applications, and an analytical review performs an in-depth analysis of the technical solutions developed and implemented in the revised scientific research. Additional minor evaluations integrate the analysis, such as a synthetic investigation of the main results in the clinical studies and trials referred in literature which involve soft gloves. Full article
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56 pages, 5179 KiB  
Review
Biorobotics: An Overview of Recent Innovations in Artificial Muscles
by Matthew Craddock, Emmanuel Augustine, Sam Konerman and Minchul Shin
Actuators 2022, 11(6), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11060168 - 17 Jun 2022
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 6647
Abstract
In this overview of recent developments in the field of biorobotics we cover the developments in materials such as the use of polyester fabric being used as artificial skin and the start of whole new ways to actuate artificial muscles as a whole. [...] Read more.
In this overview of recent developments in the field of biorobotics we cover the developments in materials such as the use of polyester fabric being used as artificial skin and the start of whole new ways to actuate artificial muscles as a whole. In this, we discuss all of the relevant innovations from the fields of nano and microtechnology, as well as in the field of soft robotics to summarize what has been over the last 4 years and what could be improved for artificial muscles in the future. The goal of this paper will be to gain a better understanding of where the current field of biorobotics is at and what its current trends in manufacturing and its techniques are within the last several years. Full article
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