Fiber reinforced elastomeric enclosures (FREEs) are soft pneumatic actuators that can contract and generate forces upon pressurization. Typical engineering applications utilize FREEs in their straight cylindrical configuration and derive actuation displacement and forces from their ends. However, there are several instances in nature, such as an elephant trunk, snakes and grapevine tendrils, where a spiral configuration of muscle systems is used for gripping, thereby establishing a mechanical connection with uniform force distribution. Inspired by these examples, this paper investigates the constricting behavior of a contracting FREE actuator deployed in a spiral or coiled configuration around a cylindrical object. Force balance is used to model the blocked force of the FREE, which is then related to the constriction force using a string model. The modeling and experimental findings reveal an attenuation in the blocked force, and thus the constriction force caused by the coupling of peripheral contact forces acting in the spiral configuration. The usefulness of the coiled FREE configuration is demonstrated in a soft arm orthosis for crutch users that provides a constriction force around the forearm. This design minimizes injury risk by reducing wrist load and improving wrist posture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number036010
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2018


  • McKibben
  • artificial muscle
  • orthosis
  • soft robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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