Additive Manufacturing for Self-Healing Soft Robots

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The field of self-healing soft robots was initiated a few years ago. A healing ability can be integrated in soft robots by manufacturing their soft membranes out of synthetic self-healing polymers, more specifically elastomeric Diels–Alder (DA) networks. As such they can recover completely from macroscopic damage, including scratches, cuts, and ruptures. Before this research, these robots were manufactured using a technique named “shaping-through-folding-and-self-healing.” This technique requires extensive manual labor, is relatively slow, and does not allow for complex shapes. In this article, an additive manufacturing methodology, fused filament fabrication, is developed for the thermoreversible DA polymers, and the approach is validated on a soft robotic gripper. The reversibility of their network permits manufacturing these flexible self-healing polymers through reactive printing into the complex shapes required in soft robotics. The degree of freedom in the design of soft robotics that this new manufacturing technique offers is illustrated through the construction of adaptive DHAS gripper fingers, based on the design by FESTO. Being constructed out of self-healing soft flexible polymer, the fingers can recover entirely from large cuts, tears, and punctures. This is highlighted through various damage–heal cycles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 711-723
Number of pages13
JournalSoft Robotics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is funded by the FWO (Fonds We-tenschappelijk Onderzoek): SBO project AMSeR (G028218N) and personal FWO-grants of Roels (1S84120N), Terryn (FWOTM784) and Brancart (12W4719N), and by the EU FET Project SHERO (828818).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2020, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers 2020.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • additive manufacturing
  • fused filament fabrication
  • soft robot materials and manufacturing
  • Self-healing materials
  • Diels-Alder polymers


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