A programmable bistable actuator with fast and ultra-sensitive grasping is proposed

Recently, Li Yingtian, an associate researcher at the Minimally Invasive Center of the Institute of Medical Engineering, Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, cooperated with Tongji University and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications to publish the latest research results in the IEEE-ASME Transactions on Mechatronics.

As a basic function of animals and robots, grasping is of great significance for predation and object manipulation. With the rapid development of soft robot technology in the past few decades, soft grippers have been widely used in various fields such as materials, scales, drive methods, and structural configurations due to their high flexibility and adaptability. However, most soft grippers are too slow in practical applications, and achieving high-speed gripping without compromising functionality remains a challenge. 

In this regard, the research team proposed a programmable bistable actuator based on a folded adjustable bistable structure, which can realize the gripper to grasp across scales, quickly, diversely and selectively. The bistable actuator can be programmed to be in an intermediate state between the steady and critical states, and to reduce the energy barrier, when an externally applied trigger force causes the stored strain energy of the structure to break through the energy barrier, the bistable structure will destabilize and quickly transition to another steady state.

Different from the traditional bistable mechanism, the ultra-tunable bistable structure adopts an intermediate pull strategy when switching to the steady state. This design allows the mechanism to adjust the internal energy according to the height of the intermediate position, and quickly switch to the next steady state through small external disturbances, and the sensitivity is much higher than that of traditional bistable structures. 

To verify the ability of the foldable super-tunable bistable structure, the research team conducted a series of experiments and showed that when reprogrammed to an ultra-sensitive state and the minimum energy barrier was lowered, the trigger force required to induce a fast switch could be reduced to less than 0.005 times its maximum. In this process, a minimum energy of 0.001 mJ is required to trigger a rapid energy release of 13.1 mJ, which enables selective gripping of objects of different weights. In the underwater environment, the ultra-sensitive gripper is able to respond to the contact of swimming fish and catch it in 0.18 seconds. 

The foldable programmable bistable actuator designed by the research team has great potential for applications in various fields, such as manufacturing, healthcare, rescue missions, etc. The development of this technology will drive innovation in the field of robotics and provide a more efficient and precise gripping solution. (Source: Diao Wenhui, China Science News)

Related Paper Information:

Through the integrated control of the actuator and the robotic arm, the object grasping is realized Courtesy of the research team

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