Design and Fabrication of a Soft Actuator for a Swallowing Robot
Textured food is provided to dysphagia populations in clinical practice for assessment and management of swallowing disorders. A considerable amount of measurements showed that the textural properties of food can affect the performance of human swallow significantly. However, the selection of food for a specific subject is difficult, due to the complexity of the biological structures and the potential risks of in vivo testing. For the purpose of providing a safe environment for food flow study, a novel soft actuator capable of producing peristalsis movement was proposed. During the esophageal swallowing, which is the last stage of human swallow, food is transported through the muscular tube by peristalsis mechanism. The motion pattern is generated by the coordinated contractions of circular muscles of the esophagus. Inspired by human esophagus and the biological process, the actuator was designed to have a completely soft body without any hard components. Discrete chambers are embedded inside the body regularly and a cylindrical food passage locates at the center of the actuator. Finite element analysis (FEA) was used to determine the structure parameters of the actuator. The soft body was fabricated by casting silicon material in a custom mold. Preliminary experiments have been performed to characterize the actuator.
Keywordsdysphagia esophageal peristalsis soft actuator FEA
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