Soft robotic platforms are becoming increasingly popular as they are generally safer, lighter, and easier to manufacture than their more rigid, heavy, traditional counterparts. These soft platforms, while inherently safer, come with significant drawbacks. Their compliant components are more difficult to model, and their underdamped nature makes them difficult to control. Additionally, they are so lightweight that a payload of just a few pounds has a significant impact on the manipulator dynamics. This thesis presents novel methods for addressing these issues. In previous research, Model Predictive Control has been demonstrably useful for joint angle control for these soft robots, using a rigid inverted pendulum model for each link. A model describing the dynamics of the entire arm would be more desirable, but with high Degrees of Freedom it is computationally expensive to optimize over such a complex model. This thesis presents a method for simplifying and linearizing the full-arm model (the Coupling-Torque method), and compares control performance when using this method of linearization against control performance for other linearization methods. The comparison shows the Coupling-Torque method yields good control performance for manipulators with seven or more Degrees of Freedom. The decoupled nature of the Coupling-Torque method also makes adaptive control, of the form described in this thesis, easier to implement. The Coupling-Torque method improves performance when the dynamics are known, but when a payload of unknown mass is attached to the end effector it has a significant impact on the dynamics. Adaptive Control is needed at this point to compensate for the model's poor approximation of the system. This thesis presents a method of layering Model Reference Adaptive Control in concert with Model Predictive Control that improves control performance in this scenario. The adaptive controller modifies dynamic parameters, which are then delivered to the optimizer, which then returns inputs for the system that take all of this information into account. This method has been shown to reduce step input tracking error by 50% when implemented on the soft robot.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





inflatable, soft robot, optimal control, adaptive control, pneumatic actuation, model predictive control