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Development of soft modular robotics

Oguntosin, V. W. (2017) Development of soft modular robotics. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This thesis covers the development and validation of soft robots in providing upper limb assistive motion. The main purpose of this research is to develop highly compliant and resilient actuators that generate motion for elbow and shoulder movements. To accomplish the purpose of the study, the fabrication, geometric construction along with experimental data of pressure, torque and range of motion of all developed actuators are described. The main contribution of this thesis is the development of soft actuators that transfer force via elastic deformation in order to generate assistive motion; features such as flexibility and soft contact with the skin ensure excellent safety potential of the actuators. To reduce the instability phenomenon attributed to the elastic response of rubber under large deformations that leads to bulging, the implementation of a pleated network design and embedded braided mesh network is presented. Bulging was reduced and torque output was increased with the integration of braided mesh into the silicone rubber actuator. The soft actuators developed for elbow and shoulder motion was tested on ten healthy participants thereby demonstrating its comfort, ease of use, fitting and removal as well as its practicality as an assistive apparatus for stroke patients. The use of soft robotics to provide shoulder motion was also assessed by the integration of soft robotics with a gravity compensated exoskeleton. The developed soft actuators were powered with electro-pneumatic hardware components presented in a compact, embedded form. Positive and negative air pressure control was implemented by a piecewise linear control algorithm with the performance of the controller shown. The design of a novel muscle made entirely of silicone rubber that contract upon actuation was described together with the manufacturing procedure, design parameters and measurement results of performance of these muscles such as the velocity of shortening, isometric contraction and maximal obtainable muscle force (without shortening). The muscles are manufactured to mimic the skeletal muscles present in the human body. These muscles are composed of a number of wedge-like units in series, the number of these wedge units increase the contraction. The soft muscles were characterized in order to find optimum design parameters that results in more contraction and speed; the muscles were tested on a model hinge joint to execute flexion/extension of the forearm at the elbow. Aside from contracting, the muscle has an interesting capability of producing bidirectional bending by the regulation of internal positive and negative air pressure in each wedge unit. In order to measure performance data relating to range of motion from bending, rotary and muscle actuators, computer vision processing was made use of. Soft robots are made with materials that experience large deformations, the sensors used to obtain measurement data can either be through the use of embedded sensors or visual processing. The use of embedded sensors can be cumbersome, resulting in limitation of its performance. The visual processing algorithms implemented to measure performance data such as angle of motion, bending angle and contraction ratio in real-time using a Webcam is described. Visual processing concepts such as colour tracking, template matching, camera calibration were applied. The developed vision system was applied to execute vision based motion control which is able to move the soft robot to a desired position using high level vision control and lower level pressure control. The material described in the preceding paragraphs are presented in an interrelated format. A concise introduction to the thesis is presented in the first chapter. An extensive survey of the field of soft robotics including materials, manufacturing procedure, actuation principles, primary accomplishments, control and challenges are presented in the literature review chapter, together with a review of rehabilitation devices. Since this work focused on the use of silicone rubber as actuator material, a brief introduction to working with silicone rubber as an engineering material is presented in the third chapter. The conclusions of the work and suggestions for future research are provided at the last chapter of this thesis.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Hayashi, Y. and Nasuto, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Biological Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Department of Bio-Engineering
ID Code:75878
Additional Information:Published papers included in Appendix B of the hard bound copy have been redacted because the permissions for sharing could not be established


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