New Robotic Actuator is Three Times Stronger than Human Muscle

Have you heard about the new robotic actuator is three times stronger than human muscle?  Researchers from Columbia Engineering created untether soft robotics resolving an issue that has been long-standing in the technical community.  The movements and actions of these robots will hopefully mimic those of real biological systems. A group from the Creative Machines lab has created a synthetic soft muscle that can be 3D printed. It is a unique artificial tissue with intrinsic expansion capability that will not need a compressor or even high-voltage machines as did the previous muscles that have been used. This new material possesses a strain density that’s 15 times greater than natural muscle and is able to lift about 1000 times its own weight.

The Development of these New Robotic Actuators

Before this creation, there was no material at all that had been able to function as a soft muscle because they did not have the right properties for intense actuation strain and stress. All the soft actuators that presently exist are generally dependent on hydraulic or pneumatic inflation to expand the elastomer skins. These external machines such as compressors and also pressure-regulating devices that are required for these technologies have always limited miniaturization which is vital to robotic creations.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said Hod Lipson, Professor of mechanical engineering. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

The soft material of robotics was inspired by actual living organisms and it holds huge promise when it comes to having robots that can eventually converse with humans, such as in healthcare or manufacturing environments. The big advantage that soft robots have over rigid robots is that they can mimic the natural motion of manipulation and grasping. And this is exactly what motion is needed to provide assistance and perform various tasks.

Making the Robotic Units More Robust

To create actuators with high stress and high strain along with low density, a rubber matrix made of silicone with also ethanol distributed in micro-bubbles. This solution served to combine the elasticity and high change volume aspects of other systems. It is also easy to fabricate, has low costs, and is comprised of environmentally friendly materials.

After it was 3D-printed into a shape desired for use, this artificial muscle was then electrically actuated with low-power and a very thin wire. It has been tested in a combination of various robotic applications and has demonstrated significant expansion ability. It is actually capable of expanding as much as 900% when heated electrically to 80°C. When using computer manipulation, this autonomous unit can perform motive functions in just about design.

These researchers plan to continue building and adding to this development. They will incorporate some conductive materials and replace the existing embedded wire which should accelerate muscle response time and also increase the shelf life of the unit. Their long-term plan is to bring in artificial intelligence in order to more effectively control the soft muscles of the unit. These added features are believed to be major milestones toward mimicking natural motion.

We anxiously await hearing about new developments about this new robotic actuator that is three times stronger than human muscle.