Soft robotics

Lead: Professor Jonathan Rossiter

Robots have traditionally been made from hard materials such as metal and plastic. They have been driven by motors and other mechanical actuators. These robots are more like machines than biological organisms. Soft robotics on the other hand seeks to make robots that are soft, flexible and compliant, just like biological organisms. The ‘body’ of a soft robot is soft like natural tissue and is driven by soft artificial muscles. Soft robots are made of compliant materials with sophisticated properties and in-built actuation, sensing and computation. But the sophisticated capabilities of soft systems bring technical, social and safety challenges:  

    • Continuous and smooth deformations of soft robots requires new approaches in modelling and control.
    • The difficulty in knowing the exact configuration of a soft robot at any one time creates challenges for verifying and monitoring performance.
    • Soft robots are outside the experiences of the average user, raising potential issues of trust.
    • Soft robots use soft materials with dynamically adapting properties, which must be considered in new measures of trustworthiness and safety. 

At the TAS Functionality Node we will demonstrate a proof of concept for trustworthy soft robotics in two target user domains: multifunctional grippers for adaptive and minimal down-time manufacturing and multifunctional soft robotic surgical assist tools.

For more information on soft robotics see the University of Bristol SoftLab.