Design, Analysis, and Real-Time Simulation of a 3D Soft Robotic Snake


Snakes are a remarkable source of inspiration for mobile search-and-rescue robots. Their unique slender body structure and multiple modes of locomotion are well-suited to movement in narrow passages and other difficult terrain. The design, manufacturing, modeling, and control techniques of soft robotics make it possible to imitate the structure, mechanical properties, and locomotion gaits of snakes, opening up new possibilities in robotics research. Building on our track record of contributions in this area, this article presents a soft robotic snake made of modules that can actively deform in three-dimensional (3D) and rigorously studies its performance under a range of conditions, including gait parameters, number of modules, and differences in the environment. A soft 3D-printed wave spring sheath is developed to support the robot modules, increasing the snake’s performance in climbing steps threefold. Finally, we introduce a simulator and a numerical model to provide a real-time simulation of the soft robotic snake. With the help of the real-time simulator, it is possible to develop and test new locomotion gaits for the soft robotic snake within a short period of time, compared with experimental trial and error. As a result, the soft robotic snake presented in this article is able to locomote on different surfaces, perform different bioinspired and custom gaits, and climb over steps.

Soft Robotics Journal