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Soft Actuators and Small-Scale Robotics

If you’ve ever been interested in robots, then you know robots have many moving parts. Robots have a control system, sensors, and a power supply at a minimum, but one of the most important parts of the robot is the actuator. In fact, robots are not even considered robots unless they have a body that can move in reaction to feedback from its sensors. Actuators provide this movement. When stimulated, actuators are essentially a robot’s muscles.

Actuators are present in all robots, and the majority of robots use traditional rigid actuators. For some applications, these actuators work fine. However, in small-scale robotics, the space is more limited. To achieve a compact design, small-scale robotics often utilize soft actuators.

Soft actuators have a flexible design and can take up less space by molding to the area they are given. Some soft actuators perform exactly like the muscles in your body, meaning they can only contract rather than expand. These types of actuators must work in antagonistic pairs.

HASEL actuators also offer a muscle-like performance but do not always need to work in pairs. HASEL actuators can provide expanding or contracting motions depending on the needs of the application. HASEL actuators are also extremely quiet, allowing them to be used in applications where the noise level is a concern.

Actuators are a major component in robotics, but as the robotics industry evolves and smaller robotics are created, soft actuators have become a necessity. Soft actuators are able to fit and mold to the space that is available as opposed to traditional actuators that have a rigid body. These actuators also offer a muscle-like performance in both expanding and contracting motions.

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