Toward motor-unit-recruitment actuators for soft robotics

Joshua Schultz, Glenn Mathijssen, Bram Vanderborght, Antonio Bicchi
2014 5th IEEE RAS/EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics  
Among the many features of muscles, their softness, (the ability to deform to accommodate uncertainty in the environment), and their ability to continue functioning despite disturbances, even partial damage, are qualities one would desire to see in robotic actuators. These properties are intimately related to the manner in which muscles work since they arise from the progressive recruitment of many motor units. This differs greatly from current robotic actuator technologies. We present an
more » ... We present an actuation platform prototype that can support experimental validation of algorithms for muscle fiber recruitment-inspired control, and where further ways to exploit discretization and redundancy in muscle-like control can be discovered. This platform, like muscles, is composed of discretely activated motor units with an integrated compliant coupling. The modular, cellular structure endows the actuator with good resilience in response to damage. It can also be repaired or modified to accommodate changing requirements in situ rather than replaced. Several performance metrics particular to muscle-like actuators are introduced and calculated for one of these units. The prototype has a blocked force of 2.51 N, a strain rate of 21.1 %, and has an input density of 5.46 ×10 3 motor units per square meter. It consumes 18 W of electrical power during a full isometric contraction. The actuator unit is 41.0 mm 3 in size. The force during isometric contractions as it varies with activation is evaluated experimentally for two configurations of modules.
doi:10.1109/biorob.2014.6913893 dblp:conf/biorob/SchultzMVB14 fatcat:hzy6aqctnjhfvg236wuls7u56m