Purdue University Graduate School
Francesco_MS_Thesis.pdf (52.92 MB)

Design and Application of Permanent Rigidity for a Soft Growing Robot

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posted on 2022-07-28, 19:28 authored by Francesco A FuentesFrancesco A Fuentes

Traditional robots and soft robots have often been treated as two distinct options for design, a dichotomy between stiffness and compliance. In reality, they compose two ends of a spectrum, and there has been research to soften traditional robots and stiffen soft robots. The latter option has seen a large variety of techniques to actively and selectively create stiffness in an otherwise soft robot. The common disadvantage concerning all of them is the need for constant energy input. In this work, a first-of-its-kind method for a permanent stiffness of a growing robot is explored and tested.

First, I show the qualitative and quantitative testing of the stiffening method, expanding insulation foam, both by itself and when applied to a vine robot. With this knowledge, I investigate a design to apply the foam to a growing robot as it moves, taking advantage of the properties of the foam to coat a vine robot as needed. This selective foam placement unlocks various unique capabilities like adhering to its environment, imparting & resisting large forces, and isolating sections of its body. Finally, these traits are highlighted in three demonstrations, proving the efficacy of this unique method as well as affirming the utility of permanently stiffening a soft robot. In the future, the work in this thesis can help open the way for permanent deployable robotic structures and soft robots in roles more traditionally used for rigid robots.


NSF #2129155


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Laura H. Blumenschein

Additional Committee Member 2

Andres Arrieta

Additional Committee Member 3

Alex Chortos

Additional Committee Member 4

Ramses Martinez

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