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Design and validation of a novel actuator with adaptable compliance for application in human-like robotics

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to propose a novel actuator with adaptable compliance for robotic applications. Design/methodology/approach ‐ In order to achieve limb actuation similar to that of human muscles, a novel actuator with adaptable compliance is proposed. Three principal design paradigms currently exist in the development of artificial muscles that have been adopted at several research centres, universities and commercial organizations around the world. The first approach consists of using compliant actuator systems such as pneumatic actuators. The second approach undertakes the development of electroactive polymers that deform when a voltage is applied. The third approach involves electromechanical devices typically comprising an electrical actuator and an elastic element in combination. The proposed actuator extends on the third approach. It comprises an electrical DC motor in serial configuration and a novel elastic device exhibiting variable stiffness. Findings ‐ The novel elastic device complements the mechanical structure of the device, enabling adaptation to the dynamic effects of external forces. Practical implications ‐ Several applications for the actuator with adaptable compliance have been identified in the field of human-like robotics. Originality/value ‐ Prototypic experimentation has successfully demonstrated the variable stiffness of the device.
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Keywords: Actuators; Applications; Design; Robotics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 9, 2009

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