Contraction Sensing with Smart Braid McKibben Muscles


W. Felt, C. D. Remy, and K. Y. Chin, “Contraction Sensing with Smart Braid McKibben Muscles,” Mechatronics, IEEE/ASME Transactions on , no. 99, 2015.


The inherent compliance of soft fluidic actuators makes them attractive for use in wearable devices and soft robotics. Their flexible nature permits them to be used without traditional rotational or prismatic joints. Without these joints, however, measuring the motion of the actuators is challenging. Actuator-level sensors could improve the performance of continuum robots and robots with compliant or multi-degree-offreedom joints. We make the reinforcing braid of a pneumatic artificial muscle (PAM or McKibben muscle) “smart” by weaving it from conductive, insulated wires. These wires form a solenoidlike circuit with an inductance that more than doubles over the PAM contraction. The reinforcing and sensing fibers can be used to measure the contraction of a PAM actuator with a simple, linear function of the measured inductance. Whereas other proposed self-sensing techniques rely on the addition of special elastomers or transducers, the technique presented in this work can be implemented without modifications of this kind. We present and experimentally validate two models for Smart Braid sensors based on the long solenoid approximation and the Neumann formula, respectively. We test a McKibben muscle made from a Smart Braid in quasistatic conditions with various end-loads and in dynamic conditions. We also test the performance of the Smart Braid sensor alongside steel.

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Last updated on 11/10/2015