Traditional robots, while capable of being efficient and effective for the task they were designed, are dangerous when operating in unmodeled environments or around humans. The field of soft robotics attempts to increase the safety of robots thus enabling them to operate in environments where traditional robots should not operate. Because of this, soft robots were developed with different goals in mind than traditional robots and as such the traditional metrics used to evaluate standard robots are not effective for evaluating soft robots. New metrics need to be developed for soft robots so that effective comparison and evaluations can be made. This dissertation attempts to lay the groundwork for that process through a survey on soft robot metrics. Additionally we propose six soft robot actuator metrics that can be used to evaluate and compare characteristics and performance of soft robot actuators. Data from eight different soft robot rotational actuators (five distinct designs) were used to evaluate these soft robot actuator metrics and show their utility. New models, control methods and estimation methods also need to be developed for soft robots. Many of the traditional methods and assumptions for modeling and controlling robotic systems are not able to provide the fidelity that is needed for soft robots to effectively complete useful tasks. This dissertation presents specific developments in each of these areas of soft robot metrics, modeling, control and estimation. We show several incremental improvements to soft robot dynamic models as well as how they were used in control methods for more precise control. We also demonstrate a method for linearizing high degree of freedom models so it can be simplified for use in faster control methods for better performance. Lastly, we present an improved continuum joint configuration estimation method that uses a linear combination of length measurements. All these developments combine to help build the "fundamental engineering framework" that is needed for soft robotics as well as helping to move robots out of their confined spaces and bring them into new unmodeled/unstructured environments.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





soft robot, estimation, metrics, controls, model predictive control, MPC



Included in

Engineering Commons