Tech »  Topic »  A new twist on artificial 'muscles' for safer, softer robots

A new twist on artificial 'muscles' for safer, softer robots

Northwestern University engineers have developed a new soft, flexible device that makes robots move by expanding and contracting -- just like a human muscle.

To demonstrate their new device, called an actuator, the researchers used it to create a cylindrical, worm-like soft robot and an artificial bicep. In experiments, the cylindrical soft robot navigated the tight, hairpin curves of a narrow pipe-like environment, and the bicep was able to lift a 500-gram weight 5,000 times in a row without failing.

Because the researchers 3D-printed the body of the soft actuator using a common rubber, the resulting robots cost about $3 in materials, excluding the small motor that drives the actuator's shape change. That sharply contrasts typical stiff, rigid actuators used in robotics, which often cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The new actuator could be used to develop inexpensive, soft, flexible robots, which are safer and more practical for ...

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