In bioinspired soft robotics, very few studies have focused on fluidic transmissions and there is an urgent need for translating fluidic concepts into realizable fluidic components to be applied in different fields. Nature has often offered an inspiring reference to design new efficient devices. Inspired by the working principle of a marine worm, the sipunculid species Phascolosoma stephensoni (Sipunculidae, Annelida), a soft linear fluidic actuator is here presented. The natural hydrostatic skeleton combined with muscle activity enables these organisms to protrude a part of their body to explore the surrounding. Looking at the hydrostatic skeleton and protrusion mechanism of sipunculids, our solution is based on a twofold fluidic component, exploiting the advantages of both pneumatic and hydraulic actuations and providing a novel fluidic transmission mechanism. The inflation of a soft pneumatic chamber is associated with the stretch of an inner hydraulic chamber due to the incompressibility of the liquid. Actuator stretch and forces have been characterized to determine system performance. In addition, an analytical model has been derived to relate the stretch ability to the inlet pressure. Three different sizes of prototypes were tested to evaluate the suitability of the proposed design for miniaturization. The proposed actuator features a strain equal to 40-50% of its initial length-depending on size-and output forces up to 18 N in the largest prototypes. The proposed bioinspired actuator expands the design of fluidic actuators and can pave the way for new approaches in soft robotics with potential application in the medical field.
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