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Design, Development and Characterization of Linear, Soft Actuators via Additive Manufacturing

[+] Author Affiliations
Alfonso Costas, Daniel E. Davis, Yixian Niu, Sadegh Dabiri, Jose Garcia, Brittany Newell

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Paper No. SMASIS2018-8097, pp. V001T01A018; 7 pages
  • ASME 2018 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems
  • Volume 1: Development and Characterization of Multifunctional Materials; Modeling, Simulation, and Control of Adaptive Systems; Integrated System Design and Implementation
  • San Antonio, Texas, USA, September 10–12, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: Aerospace Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5194-4
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


Additive manufacturing has emerged as an alternative to traditional manufacturing technologies. In particular, industries like fluid power, aviation and robotics have the potential to benefit greatly from this technology, due to the design flexibility, weight reduction and compact size that can be achieved. In this work, the design process and advantages of using 3D printing to make soft linear actuators were studied and highlighted. This work explored the limitations of current additive manufacturing tolerances to fabricate a typical piston-cylinder assembly, and how enclosed bellow actuators could be used to overcome high leakage and friction issues experienced with a piston-cylinder type actuator. To do that, different 3D printing technologies were studied and evaluated (stereolithorgraphy and fused deposition modeling) in the pursuit of high-fidelity, cost-effective 3D printing. The initial attempt consisted of printing the soft actuators directly using flexible materials in a stereolithography-type 3D printer. However, these actuators showed low durability and poor performance. The lack of a reliable resin resulted in the replacement of this material by EcoFlex® 00-30 silicone and the use of a 3D printed mold to cast the actuators. These molds included a 3-D printed dissolvable core inside the cast actuator in order to finish the manufacturing process in one single step. An experimental setup to evaluate the capabilities of these actuators was developed. Results are shown to assess the steady-state and the dynamic characteristics of these actuators. These tests resulted into the stroke-pressure and stroke-time responses for a specific load given different proportional valve inputs.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME



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