Artimus Robotics recently completed a six-month study on the use of HASEL artificial muscles for human-scale robotics. Artimus Robotics’ core technology, HASEL actuators (often referred to as artificial muscles), offers lifelike motion that is silent, strong, and fast. These muscles are highly customizable and feature a lightweight form-factor. Over the course of this project, Artimus explored a variety of bioinspired architectures for HASEL actuators ranging in size and shape, thereby broadening their product catalog. Additionally, the team developed novel algorithms for closed-loop position control of HASEL actuators for robotic application requiring precise and accurate motion.
To support these advancements, Artimus leveraged the United States Army Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, which committed $166,000 to advancing HASEL actuation technology. This work was also conducted in collaboration with theBio-Inspired Perception and Robotics Laboratory (BPRL) at the University of Colorado Boulder, which developed new methods for closed-loop control of the actuators. The Phase I project proved to be highly successful, with all the research goals completed to a satisfactory level. Many of the key findings, such as the development of custom-sized actuators, have already been translated to Artimus Robotics’ commercial customers in industries spanning automotive and industrial automation, demonstrating the multi-use capabilities of HASEL actuators.
Motivation of the Army to explore HASEL actuation technology
The US Army Research Office (ARO) has long been interested in advanced robotic technologies to augment and advance human capabilities. After many years of bringing forward a variety of robotics applications, “The Army has identified actuation of robotics as a critical need for a variety of Army stakeholders to one day fully realize the benefits of next generation robotic technologies” as indicated by Dr. Joseph Myers of ARO.
In mid 2020, the Army issued a research call, A20B-T007 titled: Actuation for Human-Scale Dynamic Whole-Body Manipulation, specifically requesting the development of proof-of-concepts of new actuator technologies. Furthermore, this call sought specific technologies, one of which (HASEL actuators) is the core technology offered by Artimus Robotics, stating: “The goal is to provide examples of scalable forms of actuation (size and number) which may be seen as viable options for improving the performance and efficiency of next generation robotics mechanisms. New forms of actuator which can deliver human scale forces and moments in lightweight and energy efficient configurations such as hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) soft actuators or other less common electrostatic-based actuators which have potential for making systems with less mass, less cost, and compatible with morphologies requiring distributed actuation are examples.”
The benefits of HASEL actuators to provide, small, silent, smart, and controllable actuation performance exemplifies how Artimus was the perfect fit to address the needs of the Army, as indicated again by Dr. Myers, “We see HASEL actuation technology as a potential game changer in a variety of defense use cases.”
Key results and learnings summarized below:
1. Families of actuators. Artimus has developed a manufacturing infrastructure to design and fabricate HASEL actuators in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Thanks to these flexible manufacturing processes, these designs (and countless others) can be realized in a matter of days through Artimus Robotic’ Custom Development program, making HASEL actuators perfect for prototyping unique motion challenges.
2. Bio inspired. Artimus explored a variety of potential bioinspired morphologies that are applicable to HASEL actuators. One exemplary bioinspired use case, which was of mutual interest to the Army and Artimus, was prototyped, studied, and validated over the course of the project.
3. Smart Actuation. Artimus is committed to bringing intelligent HASEL actuators out of the laboratory setting and into real-world application. Before this project all sensing capabilities of HASEL actuators had been tethered to lab scale systems (seen in the link below), but this project has allowed Artimus to developed new sensing techniques that can be applied to portable electronics sold to customers.
4. Closed-loop Control. Through their partnership with the BPRL at the University of Colorado Boulder, Artimus demonstrated precision control of robotic systems based on HASEL actuators. The results of this work were presented at 2022 IEEE 5th International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft).
5. Theory for Improved Performance of HASEL Actuators. As Artimus brought forward a variety of customizable actuators, another critical consideration of these actuators is their physical performance, namely their stroke and force. Using theory originally developed at the University of Colorado Boulder, Artimus developed a user-friendly tool to quickly explore the effects of various design parameters on the performance of the actuators. This tool lays the groundwork for developing the next generation of high-strength HASEL actuators, which is a priority for many of the current customers of Artimus Robotics.
All current and future customers of Artimus Robotics are encouraged to reach out to Artimus to explore how these recent advancements can be applied to their application.
Next steps between Artimus and the Army
Artimus was successful in accomplishing all the stated technical goals proposed in this Phase I project. The Army and Artimus have outlined a variety of potential use cases of HASEL actuators, which are currently at various states of evaluation. Furthermore, the Army is exploring ways in which they can deploy their expertise in materials science, electronics, and novel applications to support the research needs of Artimus. Due to the promising results of this Phase I project, Artimus has proposed to the ARMY a second phase to further advance the sensing capabilities of HASEL actuators, implement a novel control strategy applicable to any size or shaped actuator, as well as develop HASEL actuators with high energy density.
Learn more about Artimus Robotics’ ARMY STTR award here:
Buy some of the actuators developed during this project here: