3 Advancements in Soft Robotics

It seems like taking a step backwards to go forward. We’ve made huge strides in clunky metal machines that it seems strange to take a step back and go a completely different route when it comes to robotics. With Soft robotics it’s a paradigm shift, but a logical one. Why not mimic creatures and their anatomy found in nature with artificial muscles that can expand and contract? It makes perfect sense and makes for a more fluid and natural moving machines.

1.HASEL has developed muscle like reactions from filling plastic bags with oil and uses a principle that James Maxwell discovered. Basically, if two charged plates are placed in a container of oil, then the oil will move a long the electric plates. What HASEL did with this is used plastic bags as the oil containers to create an expanding and contracting effect. When combined with multiple bags of oil and actuators it works just like muscles.

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2.Organic Robotics Lab has a similar approach to HASEL, but they added a unique cooling method. They used a polymer known as hydro-gels that act like a spongy hydraulic. It carries liquid through the structure causing it to bend and move. While it heats up, the liquid leaks out causing the machine to perspire. Due to the fact that it can sweet, it also cools the machine down quicker that tradition fans.

3.Harvard, Sanford, and MIT have developed their own soft body robots. They rely on using a polymers structure with small empty chambers in them. The empty space can be pumped full of air creating movement. That movement can mimic muscles by inflating different locations on the robot’s body. It’s more like normal air hydraulics, but it has a similar effect.

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Some robots are already implemented with a similar muscle structure like the soft body machines we’ve talked about. As an honorable mention: Kengoro a robot made by the University of Tokyo JSK Laboratories has the functionality of human muscles. It uses a pulley system and sixteen actuators to create movement much like that of human muscles. It also has the same sweating properties as the Organic Robotics Lab’s robot, but instead it uses an aluminum sponge to carry coolant. The coolant is released when the robot begins to overheat.

It’s exciting to see this kind of movement in robotics. The prospect of light weight flexible robots opens up the possibilities of these automatons adjusting to different environments. It’s amazing what the future can hold for these kinds of advancements. With less energy being output to just moving the machines, more energy can be used in their computing power. If we combined this with the AI robots who are just limited to being a stationary head with expressions, then there can be a huge leap in thinking, feeling, and mobile robots.

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Published by ex1dus

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