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Soft Robotics research themes

Design Inspiration and Drivers

Design by Analogy

We use analogy to nature and art as an innovation strategy in technology development, while recognising that innovation is a design process.

Bio-inspired Robotics

  • We learn from forms and functions that occur in nature how to sense changes in physical environments.
  • We study how to replicate the underlying biological approaches using advances in robotics, materials and manufacturing technologies, then prototype, test and validate the effectiveness of our approaches.

Art-inspired Robotics

  • We use creative design methods such as Origami and Kirigami to generate creative reconfigurable robotic mechanisms enabling multi-modal actuation, sensing and attachment to the environment.
  • The work involves developments of mathematical reconfiguration models, low-fidelity prototyping, testing and translation into practical mechanisms and systems.

Socio-Technical Design

There is increasing evidence that interdisciplinary research, and specifically the combination of creative art & design methods with scientific & technological disciplines, enables researchers to translate their work into human, societal & economic benefit.

The balance between human needs and technical demands is central to our research. This involves considering not only usability and ergonomics, but also methods to elicit and understand human needs and concerns in unfamiliar or extreme conditions, and to refine or even rethink designs as a result.

Robotics Development

Biomimetic soft sensors and actuators

Soft Robotics employs soft components and their related technologies including soft materials, sensors and actuators to create robotic systems more analogous to their biological counterparts. Design, fabrication and exploitation of this class of robots can vary depending on the choice of material and associated sensing and actuation mechanisms.

We have been developing biomimetic soft robots that are made from electrically-activated smart materials or soft, flexible and stretchable structures actuated using fluid pressure. These robots are sensorised using custom arrangements of fiber-optics, EAP smart materials and conductive fabrics. Our current research will broadly investigate additive manufacturing of electro-mechanical systems with integrated sensors and actuators in a single printing run. See our relevant publication at the bottom of this page.

Technologies for stiffness variation

In many robotic scenarios, changes to the stiffness properties of soft actuators during the mission is required to increase the amount of transmitted force or, reversely, to reduce the stiffness and prevent potential damage to the environment. While in our previous work, we demonstrated the feasibility of combining granular jamming and pneumatic air actuation to realize stiffness modulation, our current research focuses on chemistry-based stiffness- variable designs.

Selected publications

Noh, Y., Han, S., Gawenda, P., Li, W., Sareh, S. & Rhode, K. (2019) A Contact Force Sensor Based on S-Shaped Beams and Optoelectronic Sensors for Flexible Manipulators for Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS), In : IEEE SENSORS JOURNAL. 20, 7, p. 3487-3495 , 8854863.

Sareh, S., Althoefer, K., Li, M., Noh, Y., Tramacere, F., Sareh, P., Mazzolai, B., Kovac, M. (2017) Anchoring like octopus: biologically inspired soft artificial sucker, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 14:135.

Li, M., Sareh, S., Xu, G., Ridzuan, M.B., Luo, S., Xie, J., et al. (2016) Evaluation of Pseudo-Haptic Interactions with Soft Objects in Virtual Environments. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157681.

Noh, Y., Liu, H., Sareh, S., Chathuranga, D., Wurdemann, H., Rhode, K., Althoefer, K. (2016) Image-based Optical Miniaturized Three-Axis Force Sensor for Cardiac Catheterization, IEEE Sensors, Volume:PP

Li, M., Ridzuan, M., Sareh, S., Seneviratne, L.D., Dasgupta, P., Althoefer K. (2014) Pseudo-haptics for rigid tool/soft surface interaction feedback in virtual environments, Journal of Mechatronics, Volume 24, Issue 8, Pages 1092-1100.

Sareh, S., Jiang, A., Faragasso, A., Noh, Y., Nanayakkara, T., Dasgupta, P., Seneviratne, L., Wurdemann, H., Althoefer, K., (2014) Bio-Inspired Tactile Sensor Sleeve for Soft Surgical Manipulators, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2014, Hong Kong, China.

Sareh, S., Rossiter, J.M., (2013) Kirigami artificial muscles with complex biologically inspired morphologies, Smart Mater. Struct. 22 014004.

Sareh, S., Rossiter, J.M., Conn, A.T., Drescher, K., Goldstein, R.E. (2012) Swimming like algae: biomimetic soft artificial cilia, Journal of the Royal Society Interface 20120666.

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RCA Robotics Laboratory