Tethering pneumatic soft robots with multiple degrees of freedom is bulky and unpractical. Our work just published in Advanced Materials describes a new approach to embed hardware intelligence in soft robots where multiple actuators are attached to the same pressure supply, and their actuation sequence is programmed by the interaction between nonlinear actuators and passive ﬂow restrictions.
Inflatable soft robots are much more than soft actuators for gripping delicate objects. They are rich dynamic structures capable of memory and computations all on their own. Carefully designed soft robotic systems therefore do not require any electronic control at all to perform complex functions. Instead, their geometry and materials automatically react to stimuli from the user or from the environment in a meaningful way. This concept is called embodied intelligence and promises extremely cheap, robust or small soft robots capable of autonomously executing tasks in complex environments. However, as of yet it is unclear how to design soft robots such that they accomplish a certain function automatically. To answer this need, we are developing a python library called FONS (Fluidic Object-oriented Network Simulator).
Last semester, the students of the second bachelor in engineering at the KU Leuven worked for three months on their problem solving and design skills with a course project. Seven teams took on the challenge to design and create a prototype for an untethered hand prosthesis featuring soft robotic actuators. The demoday in December at the department of Mechanical Engineering saw the presentation of seven unique designs capable of shaking hands, grasping cans, handling eggs or even playing rock-paper-scissors! Thumbs up for all the teams!
The semester is over and so it is the Soft robotics project 2018/19 for bachelor students of Engineering Sciences here at KU Leuven! The goal was to design and fabricate a Soft robot, which has at least two different locomotive modes. The final prototypes were shown during the demoday at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Congratulations everybody!