Additively Manufactured Custom Soft Gripper with Embedded Soft Force Sensors for an Industrial Robot

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International Journal of Precision Engineering and Manufacturing


Soft robotic grippers are required for power grasping of objects without inducing damage. Additive manufacturing can be used to produce custom-made grippers for industrial robots, in which soft joints and links are additively manufactured. In this study, a monoblock soft robotic gripper having three geometrically gradient fingers with soft sensors was designed and additively manufactured for the power grasping of spherical objects. The monoblock structure design reduces the number of components to be assembled for the soft gripper, and the gripper is designed with a single cavity to enable bending by the application of pneumatic pressure, which is required for the desired actuation. Finite element analysis (FEA) using a hyperelastic material model was performed to simulate the actuation. A material extrusion process using a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) was used to manufacture the designed gripper. Soft sensors were produced by a screen printing process that uses a flexible material and ionic liquids. The grasping capability of the manufactured gripper was experimentally evaluated by changing the pneumatic pressure (0-0.7 MPa) of the cavity. Experimental results show that the proposed monoblock gripper with integrated soft sensors successfully performed real-time grasp detection for power grasping.