IntRoFluid - Large-scale integration of soft robotic and fluidic devices

Aktiviteetti: Myönnetty tutkimusrahoitus

Description

Soft robotics – robots composed of soft materials, elastomers – is an on-going paradigm shift in robotics research. The use of soft
materials has necessitated completely different fabrication and actuation methods from traditional robotics. Soft robots typically have
soft fluidic actuators, use fluidic circuits, and are fabricated using a combination of monolithic fabrication methods: 3D-printing,
casting, lithography, adhesive bonding, among others. This monolithic fabrication is potentially a huge advantage over traditional, hard
robots: you could fabricate very complex soft robots with practically no added cost over simple designs.

However, today this potential is largely unrealized. One reason for this is that the design of soft robots is still a very manual task:
layouts are usually drawn with a general-purpose computer-aided design software, which is tedious and error-prone. The main research
question of this project is: how to design complex soft robots, in a way that allows the reuse of components while ensuring that the
device works as intended?

In this project, we will develop novel methods for the large-scale integration of soft robotic devices. Specifically, the objectives of the
project are: 1) Creating a new abstract language to describe soft robots, and an open source compiler to convert these descriptions into
layouts and simulation models. 2) Develop fabrication processes that can realize different components in the same process: channels,
vias, tanks, valves, logic, actuators etc. 3) Develop a library of reusable soft robotic components that can be fabricated and simulated. 4)
Demonstrate large-scale integration of soft robotic devices: crawling soft robots, stimuli-responsive soft grippers, and an in vitro cell
culture device for mechanobiological studies.

This project paves the way to realizing the full potential of soft robotics, by allowing designing soft robots more complex than ever
before. We believe a combination of design tools, stream-lined fabrication processes and component libraries can kick start similar
exponential growth in soft robotics that has been the norm in the semiconductor industry for 60 years. This project will take soft robot
design methodology from where the semiconductor industry was in the 70s to the 21st century.
Aikajakso1 syysk. 201130 elok. 2025