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Researchers from Harvard University have developed a method for creating soft robots with embedded sensors capable of sensing movement, pressure, touch, and temperature.
Inspired by the human “somatosensory system”, that gives us our physical abilities, the joint project between the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering produced a pneumatically soft robotic gripper capable of autonomously reacting to certain conditions.
Liquid - Sensors - Systems - Avenues - Design
“By directly printing ionic liquid sensors within these soft systems, we open new avenues to devise design and fabrication that will ultimately allow true closed-loop control of soft robots,” said project researcher Dr. Michael Wehrner.
Diagram of the SSA. Photo via Harvard University//Wiley-VCH.
UC - San - Diego - Grippers - Printing
Unlike UC San Diego’s soft robotic grippers that were made partially using 3D printing and coated with a nanotube-inlaid sensor skin, these soft somatosensitive actuators (SSAs) are embedded with their sensors.
Each T-shaped SSA consists of three matrix layers made of an elastic polymer (elastomer), namely the dorsal, actuator, and anterior matrices. Each of these matrices contains a conductive ionogel “sensor” ink.
Dorsal - Matrix - Curvature - Sensor - Ink
The dorsal matrix contains the curvature sensor ink, the actuator matrix contains the inflation sensor ink with spacers and a network of bladders that fill up with air, while the anterior matrix contains the contact sensor, attached to a set of electrical leads.
The curvature sensor correlates with SSA displacement, the inflation sensor indicates whether or not the displacement is intentional (i.e. the bladders are filled up intentionally), and the contact sensor indicates when the SSA is in contact with an object.
SSAs - Researchers - Method - Printing - EMB3D
To manufacture the SSAs, the researchers applied a method known as embedded 3D printing (EMB3D), developed by the lab of 3D Printing Industry Academic of the Year 2017 Jennifer A. Lewis and used to fabricate an electronic second skin. EMB3D involves the simultaneous fabrication of a matrix and...
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