American engineers have proposed to equip soft robots bistable spine with a spring — thanks to the robots can move much faster. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, the authors developed several prototypes, one of which can gallop at a speed of 2.5 body lengths per second, which is two times faster than the whole soft counterpart. Article published in Science Advances.
In the last few years, the development of soft robots has advanced considerably — so, in 2016, the engineers first managed to create a completely soft robot, in which, instead of harsh electronics used primitive microfluidic scheme. However, the practical application of a variety of soft robots is still far from reality, and one of the important limitations — speed of movement. Modern soft robots are still moving very slowly relative to its length — for example, one of the last soft robots for a second overcomes 0.75 length of his body.
To compensate, the engineers are trying to find different approaches (even soft pneumatic wheel chassis), and now researchers from the United States proposed yet another concept. Jie Yin (Yin Jie) from the University of North Carolina and his colleagues from other American universities tested different design options for soft robot and found that the movement speed is completely soft robot can be increased significantly, adding to the bistable design of the spine and spring.
The authors experimented with a primitive design of the robot on four pillars. The robot consists of two parallel segments each of which has upper and lower pneumatic channel. By controlling the pressure in them to force the robot to bend and stretch, causing him to walk forward.