In the past, electric actuators were made from a ball, acme, or roller screw connected to a coupler which was connected to an electric motor. As the screw turns, it moves the piston that is connected to the rod or carriage. The rod or carriage moves the load. New soft electric actuators, such as those made by Artimus Robotics, are actuators where all the pieces are made from soft materials instead of hard ones, often with unique driving mechanisms (don’t need an electric motor).
As opposed to pneumatics, electric actuators provide better control and positioning, help adapt machines to flexible processes, and are lower cost.
The benefits of soft electric actuators
Soft electric actuators are made from very inexpensive materials—usually a thin plastic film, a commodity electrode, and a commodity dielectric fluid.
Soft actuators are actuators where the material changes in shape or size in response to stimuli, including electricity, heat, light, or pH. Soft electric actuators, specifically, are great for soft mechatronics and robots. These actuators are compatible with traditional type devices, and they can easily be integrated with energy devices and electric drivers.
Soft actuators are often used in soft robotics, where every component or material is more easily pliable than traditional robots. Another benefit to soft actuators and soft robots is that they will mimic human tissues and be beneficial in making prosthetic limbs and joints supports. In the medical field, the use of fully soft robotics, including soft actuators, is endless.
They can also potentially be used in remote places, such as in space to explore other planets and even help in disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes or fires where they would be required to squeeze through small spaces.
Soft robotics and soft actuators are fairly new, but they present plenty of amazing possibilities. They consume little power while being able to change their shape or size, making them similar to human muscles and opening up a world of new possibilities
Written by Chris Glover