Soft robotics is projected to have a significant impact on healthcare, industry, and the military to deliver assistance in rehabilitation, daily living activities, repetitive motion tasks, and human performance augmentation. Many attempts have been made for application-specific robotic joints, robots, and exoskeletons using various actuator types, materials, and designs. The progress of creating soft robotic systems can be accelerated if a set of actuators with defined characteristics were developed, similar to conventional robotic actuators, which can be assembled to create desired systems including exoskeletons and end effectors. This work presents such an attempt by designing a modular corrugated diaphragm actuator that can apply linear displacement, force, and bending motion. This modular actuator approach allows for creating various robotic joints by arranging them into different configurations. Numerical simulation, fabrication, and testing were carried out to evaluate the displacement, force, and bending characteristics of the corrugated diaphragm actuator as a single unit and in multi-unit arrays to understand their applicability for different scenarios. Actuator arrays that are configured in a serial and parallel manner were investigated. The results will be presented in terms of using this modular actuator concept to create single and multi-DOF joints, which will demonstrate the versatility of this modular actuator approach.

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