Quasi-static FEA model for a multi-material soft pneumatic actuator in SOFA

Pasquale Ferrentino, Antonio Lopez-Diaz Del Campo, Seppe Terryn, Julie Legrand, Joost Brancart, Guy Van Assche, Ester Vázquez Fernández-Pacheco, Andres S. Vazquez, Bram Vanderborght

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasing interest in soft robotics has led to
new designs that exploit the combination of multiple materials,
increasing robustness and enhancing performance. However, the
combination of multiple non-linear materials makes modelling
and eventual control of these highly flexible systems challenging.
This article presents a methodology to model multi-material soft
pneumatic actuators using finite element analysis (FEA), based
on (hyper)elastic constitutive laws fitted on experimental material
characterisation. Modelling in SOFA, a FEA software, allows to
simulate and control in real-time soft robotic structures. One of
the novelties presented in this paper is the development of a new
user-friendly technique for the mesh partitioning in SOFA, using
MATLAB algorithms, that allow the creation of uniform and
more refined meshes and a mesh domain partitioning that can be
adapted for any geometry. As a case study, a cylindrical multimaterial soft pneumatic actuator is considered. It is composed
of an internal chamber, which is constituted of an autonomous
self-healing hydrogel, modelled as a hyperelastic material, and an
external elastic reinforcement, made of thermoplastic polyetherpolyurethane elastomer (TPPU), approached as a linear elastic
material. The simulation of the combination of a hyperelastic and
a linear elastic material in a single design is another contribution
of this work to the scientific literature of SOFA simulations.
Finally, the multi-material model obtained with the new mesh
partitioning technique is simulated in quasi-static conditions and
is experimentally validated, demonstrating an accurate fit between
simulation and reality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7391-7398
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Soft robotics
  • multi-material
  • finite element method
  • self-healing robots


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