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Soft pneumatic actuators with integrated resistive sensors enabled by multi-material 3D printing

Lalegani Dezaki, M., Sales, R., Zolfagharian, A. , Yazdani Nezhad, H. ORCID: 0000-0003-0832-3579 & Bodaghi, M. (2023). Soft pneumatic actuators with integrated resistive sensors enabled by multi-material 3D printing. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 128(9-10), pp. 4207-4221. doi: 10.1007/s00170-023-12181-8


The concept of soft robots has garnered significant attention in recent studies due to their unique capability to interact effectively with the surrounding environment. However, as the number of innovative soft pneumatic actuators (SPAs) continues to rise, integrating traditional sensors becomes challenging due to the complex and unrestricted movements exhibited by SPA during their operation. This article explores the importance of utilising one-shot multi-material 3D printing to integrate soft force and bending sensors into SPAs. It highlights the necessity of a well-tuned and robust low-cost fabrication process to ensure the functionality of these sensors over an extended period. Fused deposition modelling (FDM) offers a cost-effective solution for embedding sensors in soft robots, directly addressing such necessity. Also, a finite element method (FEM) based on the nonlinear hyper-elastic constitutive model equipped with experimental input is developed to precisely predict the deformation and tip force of the actuators measured in experiments. The dynamic mechanical test is conducted to observe and analyse the behaviour and resistance changes of conductive thermoplastic polyurethane (CTPU) and varioShore TPU (VTPU) during a cyclic test. The flexible sensor can detect deformations in SPAs through the application of air pressure. Similarly, the force sensor exhibits the ability to detect grasping objects by detecting changes in resistance. These findings suggest that the resistance change corresponds directly to the magnitude of the mechanical stimuli applied. Thus, the device shows potential for functioning as a resistive sensor for soft actuation. Furthermore, these findings highlight the significant potential of 3D and 4D printing technology in one-shot fabrication of soft sensor-actuator robotic systems, suggesting promising applications in various fields like grippers with sensors and rehabilitation devices.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: 3D/4D printing, Multi-material printing, Soft pneumatic actuators, Soft sensors, Fused deposition modelling
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
T Technology > TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
SWORD Depositor:
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