3D printing of soft fluidic actuators with graded porosity

Nick Willemstein, Herman van der Kooij, Ali Sadeghi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


New additive manufacturing methods are needed to realize more complex soft robots. One example is soft fluidic robotics, which exploits fluidic power and stiffness gradients. Porous structures are an interesting type for this approach, as they are flexible and allow for fluid transport. In this work, the infill foam (InFoam) method is proposed to print structures with graded porosity by liquid rope coiling (LRC). By exploiting LRC, the InFoam method could exploit the repeatable coiling patterns to print structures. To this end, only the characterization of the relationship between nozzle height and coil radius and the extruded length was necessary (at a fixed temperature). Then by adjusting the nozzle height and/or extrusion speed the porosity of the printed structure could be set. The InFoam method was demonstrated by printing porous structures using styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene (SEBS) with porosities ranging from 46% to 89%. In compression tests, the cubes showed large changes in compression modulus (more than 200 times), density (−89% compared to bulk), and energy dissipation. The InFoam method combined coiling and normal plotting to realize a large range of porosity gradients. This grading was exploited to realize rectangular structures with varying deformation patterns, which included twisting, contraction, and bending. Furthermore, the InFoam method was shown to be capable of programming the behavior of bending actuators by varying the porosity. Both the output force and stroke showed correlations similar to those of the cubes. Thus, the InFoam method can fabricate and program the mechanical behavior of a soft fluidic (porous) actuator by grading porosity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7269-7279
Number of pages11
JournalSoft matter
Issue number38
Early online date22 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2022


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