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An Underwater Robotic Manipulator with Soft Bladders and Compact Depth-Independent Actuation.


ABSTRACT: An underwater manipulator is essential for underwater robotic sampling and other service operations. Conventional rigid body underwater manipulators generally required substantial size and weight, leading to hindered general applications. Pioneering soft robotic underwater manipulators have defied this by offering dexterous and lightweight arms and grippers, but still requiring substantial actuation and control components to withstand the water pressure and achieving the desired dynamic performance. In this work, we propose a novel approach to underwater manipulator design and control, exploiting the unique characteristics of soft robots, with a hybrid structure (rigid frame+soft actuator) for improved rigidity and force output, a uniform actuator design allowing one compact hydraulic actuation system to drive all actuators, and a novel fully customizable soft bladder design that improves performances in multiple areas: (1) force output of the actuator is decoupled from the working depth, enabling wide working ranges; (2) all actuators are connected to the main hydraulic line without actuator-specific control loop, resulting in a very compact actuation system especially for high-dexterity cases; (3) dynamic responses were improved significantly compared with the counter system without bladder. A prototype soft manipulator with 4-DOFs, dual bladders, and 15?N payload was developed; the entire system (including actuation, control, and batteries) could be mounted onto a consumer-grade remotely operated vehicle, with depth-independent performances validated by various laboratory and field test results across various climatic and hydrographic conditions. Analytical models and validations of the proposed soft bladder design were also presented as a guideline for other applications.

SUBMITTER: Shen Z 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7591381 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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