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      An integrated design and fabrication strategy for entirely soft, autonomous robots.

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          Abstract

          Soft robots possess many attributes that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with conventional robots composed of rigid materials. Yet, despite recent advances, soft robots must still be tethered to hard robotic control systems and power sources. New strategies for creating completely soft robots, including soft analogues of these crucial components, are needed to realize their full potential. Here we report the untethered operation of a robot composed solely of soft materials. The robot is controlled with microfluidic logic that autonomously regulates fluid flow and, hence, catalytic decomposition of an on-board monopropellant fuel supply. Gas generated from the fuel decomposition inflates fluidic networks downstream of the reaction sites, resulting in actuation. The body and microfluidic logic of the robot are fabricated using moulding and soft lithography, respectively, and the pneumatic actuator networks, on-board fuel reservoirs and catalytic reaction chambers needed for movement are patterned within the body via a multi-material, embedded 3D printing technique. The fluidic and elastomeric architectures required for function span several orders of magnitude from the microscale to the macroscale. Our integrated design and rapid fabrication approach enables the programmable assembly of multiple materials within this architecture, laying the foundation for completely soft, autonomous robots.

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          Most cited references33

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          Design, fabrication and control of soft robots.

          Conventionally, engineers have employed rigid materials to fabricate precise, predictable robotic systems, which are easily modelled as rigid members connected at discrete joints. Natural systems, however, often match or exceed the performance of robotic systems with deformable bodies. Cephalopods, for example, achieve amazing feats of manipulation and locomotion without a skeleton; even vertebrates such as humans achieve dynamic gaits by storing elastic energy in their compliant bones and soft tissues. Inspired by nature, engineers have begun to explore the design and control of soft-bodied robots composed of compliant materials. This Review discusses recent developments in the emerging field of soft robotics.
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            Multigait soft robot.

            This manuscript describes a unique class of locomotive robot: A soft robot, composed exclusively of soft materials (elastomeric polymers), which is inspired by animals (e.g., squid, starfish, worms) that do not have hard internal skeletons. Soft lithography was used to fabricate a pneumatically actuated robot capable of sophisticated locomotion (e.g., fluid movement of limbs and multiple gaits). This robot is quadrupedal; it uses no sensors, only five actuators, and a simple pneumatic valving system that operates at low pressures (< 10 psi). A combination of crawling and undulation gaits allowed this robot to navigate a difficult obstacle. This demonstration illustrates an advantage of soft robotics: They are systems in which simple types of actuation produce complex motion.
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              Embedded 3D printing of strain sensors within highly stretchable elastomers.

              A new method, embedded-3D printing (e-3DP), is reported for fabricating strain sensors within highly conformal and extensible elastomeric matrices. e-3DP allows soft sensors to be created in nearly arbitrary planar and 3D motifs in a highly programmable and seamless manner. Several embodiments are demonstrated and sensor performance is characterized. © 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                1476-4687
                0028-0836
                August 25 2016
                : 536
                : 7617
                Affiliations
                [1 ] John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
                [2 ] Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
                [3 ] Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York 10021, USA.
                [4 ] Department of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York 10021, USA.
                [5 ] Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
                Article
                nature19100
                10.1038/nature19100
                27558065
                7bf7c5c8-6447-468f-8eeb-c34a048a032f
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