Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST, have developed an ultra-thin actuator for soft robotics. The artificial muscles, recently reported in the journal Science Robotics, were demonstrated with a robotic blooming flower brooch, dancing robotic butterflies, and fluttering tree leaves on a kinetic art piece. Actuators are the robotic equivalents of muscles, expanding, contracting, or rotating like muscle fibers in response to a stimulus such as electricity. Engineers around the world are striving to develop more dynamic actuators that respond quickly, can bend without breaking, and are very durable. Soft robotic muscles could have a wide variety of applications, from wearable electronics to advanced prosthetics.
A Yale researcher has created a'robo-skin' that could bring toys to life. Called'OmniSkin,' the flexible elastic can be fitted to stuffed toys and a variety of inanimate objects and, thanks to sensors and actuators, enable them to move. The robot'skin' can be programmed to turn almost any object into a robot, depending on how the elastic sheets are applied, or how many are applied at a time. Yale roboticists created'robo-skin' that can be affixed to almost any object. The robo-skin is made out of flexible, elastic sheets.
Inspired by the Japanese art of origami, scientists in the US have developed an artificial muscle that can lift up to a thousand times its own weight. Report suggest the muscles could be used to provide extraordinary strength to robots, yet allowing them to operate with precision and dexterity. "Artificial muscles are flexible actuators with capabilities similar to, or even beyond, natural muscles. They have been widely used in many applications as alternatives to more traditional rigid electromagnetic motors," the scientists write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Here we propose an architecture for fluid-driven origami-inspired artificial muscles.
Researchers in Switzerland have found a new way to make highly elastic fibers that can be embedded with sensing components to double as nerves in a robotic nervous system. The fibers, developed by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), are built from elastomer, which make them extremely flexible. When combined with electrodes, the fibers become sophisticated sensors that can detect pressure and strain. The flexibility makes these sensors ideally suited for a number of non-traditional robot forms, including soft robots that mimic biological organisms. The process used to make the elastic fibers is identical to the thermal drawing technique used to produce optical fiber.
Our work published recently in Science Robotics describes a new form of computer, ideally suited to controlling soft robots. Our Soft Matter Computer (SMC) is inspired by the way information is encoded and transmitted in the vascular system. Soft robotics has exploded in popularity over the last decade. In part, this is because robots made with soft materials can easily adapt and conform to their environment. This makes soft robots particularly suited to tasks that require a delicate touch, such as handling fragile materials or operating close to the (human) body.