New research published on Soft Matter by Chen Liu and Dr Ketao Zhang of Robotic Systems Group, in collaboration with Xi’an Jiaotong University (China), demonstrates a new type of variable stiffness artificial muscle.
The soft robot requires variable stiffness technology, which shall be simplified and compliant with the robotic motion. As inspired by the principle of biological muscle, this paper designed a light and fully flexible artificial muscle which can be manufactured by 3D printing technology. With a voltage on, the artificial muscle is capable of instantly promoting its stiffness by an induced fringe electric field. The work analyzed this artificial muscle through a combination of theoretical model and experiments and developed a semi-active vibration absorber for vibration attenuation. The results are compared with other variable stiffness technologies and reveal its advantages of fast and light weight in stiffness tunability.