AI News, Novel 3-D printing method embeds sensing capabilities within robotic actuators

Novel 3-D printing method embeds sensing capabilities within robotic actuators

To address this challenge, the researchers developed an organic ionic liquid-based conductive ink that can be 3D printed within the soft elastomer matrices that comprise most soft robots.

'By directly printing ionic liquid sensors within these soft systems, we open new avenues to device design and fabrication that will ultimately allow true closed loop control of soft robots.'

'Soft robotics are typically limited by conventional molding techniques that constrain geometry choices, or, in the case of commercial 3D printing, material selection that hampers design choices,' said Robert Wood, the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute, and co-author of the paper.

'The techniques developed in the Lewis Lab have the opportunity to revolutionize how robots are created -- moving away from sequential processes and creating complex and monolithic robots with embedded sensors and actuators.'

Next, the researchers hope to harness the power of machine learning to train these devices to grasp objects of varying size, shape, surface texture, and temperature.

Novel 3D printing method embeds sensing capabilities within robotic actuators

Researchers at Harvard University have built soft robots inspired by nature that can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects and even assist a beating heart, but none of these devices has been able to sense and respond to the world around them.

“By directly printing ionic liquid sensors within these soft systems, we open new avenues to device design and fabrication that will ultimately allow true closed loop control of soft robots.” Wehner is now an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“This new ink combined with our embedded 3D printing process allows us to combine both soft sensing and actuation in one integrated soft robotic system.” To test the sensors, the team printed a soft robotic gripper comprised of three soft fingers or actuators.

“Soft robotics are typically limited by conventional molding techniques that constrain geometry choices, or, in the case of commercial 3D printing, material selection that hampers design choices,” said Robert Wood, the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute, and co-author of the paper.  “The techniques developed in the Lewis Lab have the opportunity to revolutionize how robots are created — moving away from sequential processes and creating complex and monolithic robots with embedded sensors and actuators.'

3D Printing Soft Robotics with Embedded Sensors

The researchers developed a platform for 3D printing soft robots that feature embedded sensors to feel movement, pressure, touch, and temperature. This could be used for integrated sensing across a range of soft robotic applications, including robot-assisted surgery and robotic picking.

“By directly printing ionic liquid sensors within these soft systems, we open new avenues to device design and fabrication that will ultimately allow true closed loop control of soft robots.” To test these new sensors, the team printed a three-fingered, soft robotic gripper.

“Soft robotics are typically limited by conventional molding techniques that constrain geometry choices, or, in the case of commercial 3D printing, material selection that hampers design choices,” said Robert Wood, Ph.D., Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute and the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, and co-author of the paper.  “The techniques developed in the Lewis Lab have the opportunity to revolutionize how robots are created — moving away from sequential processes and creating complex and monolithic robots with embedded sensors and actuators.” The next step for the researchers is to use machine learning to train the soft robotic grippers to grasp objects of varying size, shape, surface texture, and temperature.

Novel 3D printing method embeds sensing capabilities within robotic actuators

By Leah Burrows, SEAS Communications (CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — Researchers at Harvard University have built soft robots inspired by nature that can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects and even assist a beating heart, but none of these devices has been able to sense and respond to the world around them.

“This new ink combined with our embedded 3D printing process allows us to combine both soft sensing and actuation in one integrated soft robotic system.” To test the sensors, the team printed a soft robotic gripper comprised of three soft fingers or actuators.

“Soft robotics are typically limited by conventional molding techniques that constrain geometry choices, or, in the case of commercial 3D printing, material selection that hampers design choices,” said Robert Wood, Ph.D., Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute and the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, and co-author of the paper.  “The techniques developed in the Lewis Lab have the opportunity to revolutionize how robots are created — moving away from sequential processes and creating complex and monolithic robots with embedded sensors and actuators.”

Harvard Researchers Develop Novel 3D Printing Method to Give Soft Robotic Gripper the Ability to Sense Its Surroundings

Soft robotics has turned the idea of robots only being made of hard, rigid parts on its tail, and pairing the technology with 3D printing has led to some remarkable innovations, including soft hydrogel robots that are nearly invisible and the world’s first autonomous soft robot.

The team was inspired by the sensory capabilities of human bodies, and developed a platform to create soft robots that contain embedded sensors within actuators, which allow the robot to actually sense touch, movement, pressure, and temperature.

As an exemplar, multiple SSAs are combined into a soft robotic gripper that provides proprioceptive and haptic feedback via embedded curvature, inflation, and contact sensors, including deep and fine touch contact sensors.”

“To date, most integrated sensor/actuator systems used in soft robotics have been quite rudimentary. By directly printing ionic liquid sensors within these soft systems, we open new avenues to device design and fabrication that will ultimately allow true closed loop control of soft robots,”

The team’s innovative platform makes it easy to integrate sensors into soft actuating systems, which is, according to the paper, “a necessary step toward closed-loop feedback control of soft robots, machines, and haptic devices.”

Wood, also a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute, explained, “Soft robotics are typically limited by conventional molding techniques that constrain geometry choices, or, in the case of commercial 3D printing, material selection that hampers design choices. The techniques developed in the Lewis Lab have the opportunity to revolutionize how robots are created — moving away from sequential processes and creating complex and monolithic robots with embedded sensors and actuators.”

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