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Screen-printed curvature sensors for soft robots

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-230
JournalIEEE Sensors Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Castable elastomers have been used to fabricate soft robotic devices and it has been shown that the technique scales well from prototyping to mass manufacturing. However, similarly scalable techniques for integrating strain or curvature sensors into such devices are still lacking. In this paper, we show that screenprinted silver conductors serve well as curvature sensors for soft robotic devices. The sensors are produced onto elastomer substrates in a single printing step and integrated into soft pneumatic actuators. We characterized the resistance-curvature relationship of the sensors, which allows the curvature of the actuators to be estimated from the sensor measurements. Hysteresis was observed, which does limit the absolute accuracy of the sensors. However, temperature characterizations showed that the sensor measurements are not significantly affected by temperature fluctuations during normal operation. Dynamic experiments showed that the bandwidth of the sensors is larger than the bandwidth of the actuators. We experimentally validated that these sensors can be used to detect whether the motion of an actuator has been blocked, clearing the way towards simple-tofabricate soft robots that react to their surroundings. Finally, we demonstrate a three-fingered soft robotic gripper with integrated sensors. We conclude that screen-printing is a promising way to integrate curvature sensors into soft robots.


  • Actuators, Electrical resistance measurement, Flexible printed circuit, Mechanical Sensors, Sensor phenomena and characterization, Silver, Soft robotics, Strain measurement, Temperature measurement

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