3D printed soft parallel actuator

This paper presents a 3-dimensional (3D) printed soft parallel contactless actuator for the first time. The actuator involves an electro-responsive parallel mechanism made of two segments namely active chain and passive chain both 3D printed. The active chain is attached to the ground from one end and constitutes two actuator links made of responsive hydrogel. The passive chain, on the other hand, is attached to the active chain from one end and consists of two rigid links made of polymer. The actuator links are printed using an extrusion-based 3D-Bioplotter with polyelectrolyte hydrogel as printer ink. The rigid links are also printed by a 3D fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) as print material. The kinematics model of the soft parallel actuator is derived via transformation matrices notations to simulate and determine the workspace of the actuator. The printed soft parallel actuator is then immersed into NaOH solution with specific voltage applied to it via two contactless electrodes. The experimental data is then collected and used to develop a parametric model to estimate the end-effector position and regulate kinematics model in response to specific input voltage over time. It is observed that the electroactive actuator demonstrates expected behaviour according to the simulation of its kinematics model. The use of 3D printing for the fabrication of parallel soft actuators opens a new chapter in manufacturing sophisticated soft actuators with high dexterity and mechanical robustness for biomedical applications such as cell manipulation and drug release.