Soft robot arms possess unique capabilities when it comes to adaptability, flexibility, and dexterity. In addition, soft systems that are pneumatically actuated can claim high power-to-weight ratio. One of the main drawbacks of pneumatically actuated soft arms is that their stiffness cannot be varied independently from their end-effector position in space. The novel robot arm physical design presented in this article successfully decouples its end-effector positioning from its stiffness. An experimental characterization of this ability is coupled with a mathematical analysis. The arm combines the light weight, high payload to weight ratio and robustness of pneumatic actuation with the adaptability and versatility of variable stiffness. Light weight is a vital component of the inherent safety approach to physical human-robot interaction. To characterize the arm, a neural network analysis of the curvature of the arm for different input pressures is performed. The curvature-pressure relationship is also characterized experimentally.
- physical human-robot interaction
- pneumatic actuators
- soft robot arm
- variable stiffness