Research Topic

Novel Designs for Soft Robot Arms

About this Research Topic

Traditional rigid robot arms have been in use since the 1960s. Despite widespread applications, they have many drawbacks, some of which can be overcome by the use of soft systems. Soft robot arms are typically formed from lightweight and deformable/compliant materials which means they have low inertia and are often inherently safe. This means soft robot arms can operate close to and with people without the need for protective cages. Soft robot arms often do not have discrete joints like a traditional serial manipulator. This means they are able to deform around obstacles and reach into areas and objects that a traditional serial manipulator cannot. This means soft robot arms can perform tasks and in environments where traditional robots struggle.

Despite their advantages, there are still many challenges preventing the use of soft robot arms outside of simulated or laboratory environments.

These challenges include:
• Generation of high forces – Generally soft robot arms are unable to generate high forces and lift large
payloads. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the field but can be overcome through the development
of new soft arm materials and actuators.
• Stiffness modulation - The ability to modulate a soft arm’s stiffness has the potential to vastly increase its range
of applications, but despite substantial research, the soft variable stiffness mechanisms proposed to date have
seen limited applications.
• Sensing and contact modelling for soft robot arms - A soft robot arm will continuously flex and deform, and
this means traditional sensors are inappropriate and advances are needed.
• Mechanical resilience – Soft robot arms have limited resilience to environmental changes or damages,
requiring advances in materials and development of self-repairing soft arms.
• Reconfiguration and morphing abilities – Unlike traditional robot arms, future soft arms may be able to change
morphology, change shape, stiffen, grow, develop, and evolve.
• Modelling and Control – Advances are required in modelling and control of soft robot arms as well-established
techniques are not directly applicable.

The goal of this Research Topic is to address these challenges to allow soft robot arms to be used in real world applications.

The Research Topic requests contributions which advance the state-of-the-art in soft robot arms in, but not limited to, the following areas:
• The design of soft robot arms
• Control of soft robot arms
• Novel applications of soft robot arms
• Actuators and sensing for soft robot arms
• Smart materials for soft robot arms
• Soft robot arms in healthcare and rehabilitation


Keywords: Soft Robot, Soft Arm, Soft Manipulator, Control, Materials, Soft Actuation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Traditional rigid robot arms have been in use since the 1960s. Despite widespread applications, they have many drawbacks, some of which can be overcome by the use of soft systems. Soft robot arms are typically formed from lightweight and deformable/compliant materials which means they have low inertia and are often inherently safe. This means soft robot arms can operate close to and with people without the need for protective cages. Soft robot arms often do not have discrete joints like a traditional serial manipulator. This means they are able to deform around obstacles and reach into areas and objects that a traditional serial manipulator cannot. This means soft robot arms can perform tasks and in environments where traditional robots struggle.

Despite their advantages, there are still many challenges preventing the use of soft robot arms outside of simulated or laboratory environments.

These challenges include:
• Generation of high forces – Generally soft robot arms are unable to generate high forces and lift large
payloads. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the field but can be overcome through the development
of new soft arm materials and actuators.
• Stiffness modulation - The ability to modulate a soft arm’s stiffness has the potential to vastly increase its range
of applications, but despite substantial research, the soft variable stiffness mechanisms proposed to date have
seen limited applications.
• Sensing and contact modelling for soft robot arms - A soft robot arm will continuously flex and deform, and
this means traditional sensors are inappropriate and advances are needed.
• Mechanical resilience – Soft robot arms have limited resilience to environmental changes or damages,
requiring advances in materials and development of self-repairing soft arms.
• Reconfiguration and morphing abilities – Unlike traditional robot arms, future soft arms may be able to change
morphology, change shape, stiffen, grow, develop, and evolve.
• Modelling and Control – Advances are required in modelling and control of soft robot arms as well-established
techniques are not directly applicable.

The goal of this Research Topic is to address these challenges to allow soft robot arms to be used in real world applications.

The Research Topic requests contributions which advance the state-of-the-art in soft robot arms in, but not limited to, the following areas:
• The design of soft robot arms
• Control of soft robot arms
• Novel applications of soft robot arms
• Actuators and sensing for soft robot arms
• Smart materials for soft robot arms
• Soft robot arms in healthcare and rehabilitation


Keywords: Soft Robot, Soft Arm, Soft Manipulator, Control, Materials, Soft Actuation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

17 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

17 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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