Soft robots are capable of mimicking the complex motion of animals. Soft robotic systems are defined by their compliance, which allows for continuous and often responsive localized deformation. These features make soft robots especially interesting for integration with human tissues, for example, the implementation of biomedical devices, and for robotic performance in harsh or uncertain environments, for example, exploration in confined spaces or locomotion on uneven terrain. Advances in soft materials and additive manufacturing technologies have enabled the design of soft robots with sophisticated capabilities, such as jumping, complex 3D movements, gripping and releasing. In this Review, we examine the essential soft material properties for different elements of soft robots, highlighting the most relevant polymer systems. Advantages and limitations of different additive manufacturing processes, including 3D printing, fused deposition modelling, direct ink writing, selective laser sintering, inkjet printing and stereolithography, are discussed, and the different techniques are investigated for their application in soft robotic fabrication. Finally, we explore integrated robotic systems and give an outlook for the future of the field and remaining challenges.
Nature Reviews Materials – Springer Journals
Published: May 4, 2018
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