Researchers have developed highly programmable actuators that, similar to the human hand, combine soft and hard materials to perform complex movements. These materials have great potential for soft robots that can safely and effectively interact with humans and other delicate objects.

Researchers develop soft actuators that will provide robots with soft touch. (Credit: TU Delft)

The research presents some new designs of ultra-programmable mechanical metamaterials where not only the actuation force and amplitude but also the actuation mode could be selected and tuned within a very wide range. Examples include how these soft actuators could be used in robotics, for instance, as a force switch, kinematic controllers, and a pick-and-place end-effector.

Soft robotics in general and soft actuators in particular could greatly benefit from such designer materials. They were able to calculate and predict higher modes of buckling and make the material predisposed to these higher modes.

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