Special Issue "Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Aslan Miriyev
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Materials and Technology Center of Robotics, Empa- Swiss Federal Labs for Materials Science and Technology, Ueberlandstrasse 129, Dübendorf 8600, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
Department of Aeronautics, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK
Interests: soft-material robotics; bio-hybrid robotics; soft actuation; bio-hybrid actuation; soft and structural functional composites; multi-material systems; advanced manufacturing; 3D-printing
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Adaptation to rapidly changing global conditions increases the dependence of humanity on advanced technologies. Climate cataclysms, environmental disasters, and epidemics have always been an "exam" for many technological domains. Breakthrough technologies, mature enough for implementation, rapidly find their way to the front line to solve critical issues.

Soft robotics possesses the potential to become such a technological game-changer and help humanity overcome future global challenges. Indeed, the efforts to minimize the exposure of humans to dangerous urgent tasks have significantly increased the demand in robots capable of actively assisting or substituting humans. However, there are still no intelligent adaptive robots, consistently co-working with people beyond the strict execution of pre-programmed tasks- in neither emergencies nor routine.

Several technological limitations have hindered developing such nature-like robots. One of the main gaps has been the lack of reliable soft actuators with characteristics comparable to those of biological muscles. These include high actuation stress and strain, a wide range of actuation frequencies, high energy density and repeatable performance for billions of cycles. On the system level, such actuators should also be compatible with the sensing and computation components of the robot. The bar is high and intensive research is being conducted around the globe to develop advanced soft actuators and unleash the full potential of soft robotics.

Preparing the soft robotics field for next big global challenges requires acknowledging the achievements in soft actuation, admitting its technological gaps and drawing the domain's future development vectors. Currently, when most of the experimental research in various disciplines has been put on hold due to the pandemic circumstances, it might be the most suitable time for this effort.

The Special Issue of Actuators provides a platform for the publication of Review articles on the state of the art in various aspects of soft actuation, and offers insight into the future of the domain by publishing solicited perspective and opinion articles. I am cordially inviting you to submit review articles for publication in the "Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook" Special Issue of Actuators.

Sincerely,
Dr. Aslan Miriyev
Guest Editor

How to submit

Please express your interest in submission a review paper to our special issue by email to [email protected] with an attached short pdf document including a cover letter, paper title and paper abstract.

Your application will be evaluated for fitting the scope of the special issue and the Actuators journal and you will receive a confirmation email.

After receiving the confirmation email from us, you are welcome to submit your review article in the journal's electronic submission system by 31 August 2020.

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Review

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Open AccessReview
Recent Advances in Design and Actuation of Continuum Robots for Medical Applications
Actuators 2020, 9(4), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9040142 - 19 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1016
Abstract
Traditional rigid robot application in the medical field is limited due to the limited degrees of freedom caused by their material and structure. Inspired by trunk, tentacles, and snakes, continuum robot (CR) could traverse confined space, manipulate objects in complex environment, and conform [...] Read more.
Traditional rigid robot application in the medical field is limited due to the limited degrees of freedom caused by their material and structure. Inspired by trunk, tentacles, and snakes, continuum robot (CR) could traverse confined space, manipulate objects in complex environment, and conform to curvilinear paths in space. The continuum robot has broad prospect in surgery due to its high dexterity, which can reach circuitous areas of the body and perform precision surgery. Recently, many efforts have been done by researchers to improve the design and actuation methods of continuum robots. Several continuum robots have been applied in clinic surgical interventions and demonstrated superiorities to conventional rigid-link robots. In this paper, we provide an overview of the current development of continuum robots, including the design principles, actuation methods, application prospect, limitations, and challenge. And we also provide perspective for the future development. We hope that with the development of material science, Engineering ethics, and manufacture technology, new methods can be applied to manufacture continuum robots for specific surgical procedures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook)
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Open AccessReview
Programmable Stimuli-Responsive Actuators for Complex Motions in Soft Robotics: Concept, Design and Challenges
Actuators 2020, 9(4), 131; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9040131 - 05 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1201
Abstract
During the last years, great progress was made in material science in terms of concept, design and fabrication of new composite materials with conferred properties and desired functionalities. The scientific community paid particular interest to active soft materials, such as soft actuators, for [...] Read more.
During the last years, great progress was made in material science in terms of concept, design and fabrication of new composite materials with conferred properties and desired functionalities. The scientific community paid particular interest to active soft materials, such as soft actuators, for their potential as transducers responding to various stimuli aiming to produce mechanical work. Inspired by this, materials engineers today are developing multidisciplinary approaches to produce new active matters, focusing on the kinematics allowed by the material itself more than on the possibilities offered by its design. Traditionally, more complex motions beyond pure elongation and bending are addressed by the robotics community. The present review targets encompassing and rationalizing a framework which will help a wider scientific audience to understand, sort and design future soft actuators and methods enabling complex motions. Special attention is devoted to recent progress in developing innovative stimulus-responsive materials and approaches for complex motion programming for soft robotics. In this context, a challenging overview of the new materials as well as their classification and comparison (performances and characteristics) are proposed. In addition, the great potential of soft transducers are outlined in terms of kinematic capabilities, illustrated by the related application. Guidelines are provided to design actuators and to integrate asymmetry enabling motions along any of the six basic degrees of freedom (translations and rotations), and strategies towards the programming of more complex motions are discussed. As a final note, a series of manufacturing methods are described and compared, from molding to 3D and 4D printing. The review ends with a Perspectives section, from material science and microrobotic points of view, on the soft materials’ future and close future challenges to be overcome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook)
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Open AccessReview
A Review of Jamming Actuation in Soft Robotics
Actuators 2020, 9(4), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9040104 - 15 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1201
Abstract
Jamming is a popular and versatile soft robotic mechanism, enabling new systems to be developed that can achieve high stiffness variation with minimal volume variation. Numerous applications have been reported, including deep-sea sampling, industrial gripping, and use as paws for legged locomotion. This [...] Read more.
Jamming is a popular and versatile soft robotic mechanism, enabling new systems to be developed that can achieve high stiffness variation with minimal volume variation. Numerous applications have been reported, including deep-sea sampling, industrial gripping, and use as paws for legged locomotion. This review explores the state-of-the-art for the three classes of jamming actuator: granular, layer and fibre jamming. We highlight the strengths and weaknesses of these soft robotic systems and propose opportunities for further development. We describe a number of trends, promising avenues for innovative research, and several technology gaps that could push the field forwards if addressed, including the lack of standardization for evaluating the performance of jamming systems. We conclude with perspectives for future studies in soft jamming robotics research, particularly elucidating how emerging technologies, including multi-material 3D printing, can enable the design and creation of increasingly diverse and high-performance soft robotic mechanisms for a myriad of new application areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook)
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Other

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Open AccessPerspective
Biohybrid Actuators for Soft Robotics: Challenges in Scaling Up
Actuators 2020, 9(4), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9040096 - 30 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1217
Abstract
Living systems have evolved to survive in a wide range of environments and safely interact with other objects and organisms. Thus, living systems have been the source of inspiration for many researchers looking to apply their mechanics and unique characteristics in engineering robotics. [...] Read more.
Living systems have evolved to survive in a wide range of environments and safely interact with other objects and organisms. Thus, living systems have been the source of inspiration for many researchers looking to apply their mechanics and unique characteristics in engineering robotics. Moving beyond bioinspiration, biohybrid actuators, with compliance and self-healing capabilities enabled by living cells or tissue interfaced with artificial structures, have drawn great interest as ways to address challenges in soft robotics, and in particular have seen success in small-scale robotic actuation. However, macro-scale biohybrid actuators beyond the centimeter scale currently face many practical obstacles. In this perspective, we discuss the challenges in scaling up biohybrid actuators and the path to realize large-scale biohybrid soft robotics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuation: State of the Art and Outlook)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Planned Review Paper #1:

Contact Surfaces for Soft Actuators

Jaskirat Singh Batra1,*, Jun Kameoka1,2

1 Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Texas A&M University, USA

2 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University, USA

* Corresponding authors: [email protected]

Abstract

This review article discusses the contact surface for soft robotics, which is critical for soft robotics actuation and locomotion. Most of the previous research has been limited to dry and hard surfaces where the locomotion is supported by surface friction. However, the challenges with soft robot locomotion and actuation arise on other contact surface environment. Further advancement of soft robots and actuators to solve real-world problems will depend on their ability to interact with complex natural (biological) and synthetic (metamaterials) environments. By identifying technological gaps in soft robot locomotion on contact surfaces, this review article will provide future direction for development of soft robots to interact with complex surfaces.

Keywords: soft actuator, soft robotics, contact surface, surface property, surface interaction, friction, wet adhesion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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