Authors: Wyatt Felt, Maria Telleria, Thomas Allen, Gabriel Hein, Jonathan Pompa, Kevin Albert, David Remy
In this work we present a novel, inductance-based system to measure and control the motion of bellows-driven continuum joints in soft robots. The sensing system relies on coils of wire wrapped around the minor diameters of each bellows on the joint. As the bellows extend, these coils of wire become more distant, decreasing their mutual inductance. Measuring this change in mutual inductance allows us to measure the motion of the joint. By dividing the sensing of the joint into two sections and measuring the motion of each section independently, we are able to measure the overall deformation of the joint with a piece-wise constant-curvature approximation. This technique allows us to measure lateral displacements that would be otherwise unobservable. When measuring bending, the inductance sensors measured the joint orientation with an RMS error of 1.1 degrees. The inductance sensors were also successfully used as feedback to control the orientation of the joint. The sensors proposed and tested in this work provided accurate motion feedback that would be difficult to achieve robustly with other sensors. This sensing system enables the creation of robust, self-sensing, and soft robots based on bellows-driven continuum joints.