Special Issue "Soft Machines: Integrating Sensing, Actuation and Computation"

A special issue of Robotics (ISSN 2218-6581).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Sina Naficy
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Faculty of Engineering & IT, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Interests: soft robotics; flexible sensors; flexible actuators; smart polymers; functional hydrogels
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Michael P.M. Dicker
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Bristol Composites Institute, Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol, Clifton, BS8 1TR, UK
Interests: hydrogel artificial muscles; photochemical systems; composite acctuators; soft 3D printing
Prof. Jonathan M. Rossiter
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Bristol, BS34 8QZ, UK
Tel. +44 117 3315601
Interests: soft robotics; biomimetics; artificial muscles; tactile sensing

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Soft machines based on well-integrated sensors and actuators can autonomously change their physical properties and interact with their surroundings in an organic manner. Such machines hold a great potential for biomedical devices, artificial limbs, and cooperative human assistance. Realising this vision requires novel soft, smart hybrid systems capable of sensing, computing, and actuation at micron-scale. Tightly integrating actuation, sensing, and computation into one single system can extend the functionality of traditional smart materials to truly programmable soft machines. This goal can be achieved by: 1) integrating sensing, actuation, and computation through novel smart materials, 2) adapting new fabrication techniques capable of creating hybrid, hierarchical structures.

The aim of this special issue is to present the readers with a concise overview of recent developments and novel approaches in integrating sensing and actuation via new, soft actuators and sensors. The proposed special issue will be dedicated to high-quality research articles and original review papers that highlight recent advancements in smart, functional materials and systems, soft electronics, and the 3D fabrication of hybrid systems.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Integration of sensing and actuation,
  • Soft electronics,
  • Soft actuators,
  • Artificial muscles,
  • Hydrogel- and gel-based sensors and actuators,
  • Soft sensors,
  • Electroactive sensors and actuators,
  • Smart textiles,
  • Additive manufacturing of soft sensors and actuators, and
  • 4D printing of soft materials.
Dr. Sina Naficy
Dr. Michael P.M. Dicker
Prof. Jonathan M. Rossiter
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Robotics is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • artificial muscles
  • soft robotics
  • smart materials
  • soft sensors
  • soft actuators

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Characterization and Lubrication of Tube-Guided Shape-Memory Alloy Actuators for Smart Textiles
Robotics 2019, 8(4), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/robotics8040094 - 08 Nov 2019
Abstract
Smart textiles are flexible materials with interactive capabilities such as sensing, actuation, and computing, and in recent years have garnered considerable interest. Shape-memory alloy (SMA) wire is a well-suited for smart textiles due to its high strength, small size, and low mass. However, [...] Read more.
Smart textiles are flexible materials with interactive capabilities such as sensing, actuation, and computing, and in recent years have garnered considerable interest. Shape-memory alloy (SMA) wire is a well-suited for smart textiles due to its high strength, small size, and low mass. However, the contraction of SMA wire is low, limiting its usefulness. One solution to increasing net contraction is to use a long SMA wire and guide it inside a tube that is wound back and forth or coiled inside a smart textile. In this article, we characterize the performance of tube-guided SMA wire actuators. We investigate the effect of turn radius and number of loops, showing that the stroke of an SMA-based system can be improved by up to 69.81% using the tube-guided SMA wire actuator concept. Finally, we investigate how tube-guided SMA wire actuators can be lubricated to improve their performance. Coarse graphite powder and tungsten disulfide lubricant both delivered improvements in stroke compared with an unlubricated system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Machines: Integrating Sensing, Actuation and Computation)
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Open AccessArticle
Impermeable and Compliant: SIBS as a Promising Encapsulant for Ionically Electroactive Devices
Robotics 2019, 8(3), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/robotics8030060 - 24 Jul 2019
Abstract
Metals and glass are excellent for containing electrolytes and liquids in general, but their rigid mechanics limits their application for mechanically active ionic actuators or flexible/ stretchable electrochemical devices such as batteries and supercapacitors. In this study, we evaluate the performance of spray-coated [...] Read more.
Metals and glass are excellent for containing electrolytes and liquids in general, but their rigid mechanics limits their application for mechanically active ionic actuators or flexible/ stretchable electrochemical devices such as batteries and supercapacitors. In this study, we evaluate the performance of spray-coated poly (styrene-block-isobutylene-block-styrene) (SIBS) as a stretchable encapsulant, which suggests that it offers a better combination of compliance and impermeability than any other barrier. We examined the drying time of 360-µm thick encapsulated tri-layer conducting polymer (CP) actuators, comprised of poly(3,4-Ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) as the CP electrode and an interpenetrated polymer network of polyethylene oxide (PEO) and nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) as the separator layer, which operates with a 1 M solution of Lithium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide (Li+TFSI) in propylene carbonate (PC). A 100-µm thick SIBS encapsulation layer is anticipated to help these devices to retain 80% of stored PC for more than 1000 times longer compared to when there is no encapsulation (from less than 0.5 days to over 1.5 years). This low permeability combined with the low Young’s modulus of the SIBS film, its biocompatibility, biostability, and FDA approval, as well as ease of fabrication, make this thermoplastic elastomer a promising candidate as an encapsulant for flexible ionic devices such as flexible batteries and supercapacitors, ionic-electrode capacitive sensors, and ionically electroactive actuators. This paves the way for using these devices in implantable and in vivo applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Machines: Integrating Sensing, Actuation and Computation)
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Open AccessArticle
Vacuum-Actuated Bending for Grasping
Robotics 2018, 7(4), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/robotics7040073 - 16 Nov 2018
Abstract
Soft robotic devices typically are actuated with the application of a positive pressure (compared to ambient pressure), but some exciting work has been done with negative pressure application, with advantages for safety and robustness. Here, we present a negative pressure bending actuator inspired [...] Read more.
Soft robotic devices typically are actuated with the application of a positive pressure (compared to ambient pressure), but some exciting work has been done with negative pressure application, with advantages for safety and robustness. Here, we present a negative pressure bending actuator inspired by previous work by Yang et al., fabricated using rapid prototyping techniques and elastomeric polymers. We describe the mechanical behavior of the system from a cellular solids perspective, showing the steps needed for the analysis and characterization of future similar systems. We find good agreement between experimentally measured values of displacement and force generated in atmospheric pressure conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Machines: Integrating Sensing, Actuation and Computation)
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Open AccessArticle
Design, Kinematics and Controlling a Novel Soft Robot Arm with Parallel Motion
Robotics 2018, 7(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/robotics7020019 - 17 May 2018
Abstract
This article presents a novel design for a double bend pneumatic muscle actuator (DB-PMA) inspired by snake lateral undulation. The presented actuator has the ability to bend in opposite directions from its two halves. This behavior results in horizontal and vertical movements of [...] Read more.
This article presents a novel design for a double bend pneumatic muscle actuator (DB-PMA) inspired by snake lateral undulation. The presented actuator has the ability to bend in opposite directions from its two halves. This behavior results in horizontal and vertical movements of the actuator distal ends. The kinematics for the proposed actuator are illustrated and experiments conducted to validate its unique features. Furthermore, a continuum robot arm with the ability to move in parallel (horizontal displacement) is designed with a single DB-PMA and a two-finger soft gripper. The performance of the soft robot arm presented is explained, then another design of the horizontal motion continuum robot arm is proposed, using two self-bending contraction actuators (SBCA) in series to overcome the payload effects on the upper half of the soft arm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Machines: Integrating Sensing, Actuation and Computation)
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