WE ARE A ROBOTICS LAB INVENTING SOFT ACTIVE MATERIALS, BIOINSPIRED MECHANISMS, AND RAPID DIGITAL MANUFACTURING.
Using biological inspiration, we design mechanisms that are as soft as skin and muscle, then manufacture them with techniques in 3D printing, laser machining, and soft lithography. The last five decades have seen rigid robots dominate factories, but the future will be characterized by robotic devices that are physically compliant, exceptionally dynamic, and ever-present in our daily lives.
3D Liquid Metal Printing
One of the challenges to rapidly manufacturing flexible electronics is the complexity involved in printing circuitry from stretchable conductors. Eutectic gallium alloys are typically used as the conductive material. However, limited 3D printing has been demonstrated by leveraging the structural stabilization provided by the thin gallium oxide film. Vertical structures are difficult to print with a liquid metal (LM). A method is presented to alter the physical structure of the liquid metal through the incorporation of a conductive nano- or micro-nickel fillers. The resulting rheological modification of the liquid metal to a paste drastically increases the fluidic elastic modulus and yield stress, rendering it 3D printable.
Hybrid Soft Sensor
As soft robots become more ubiquitous, there is a growing need for measuring the motion of soft bodies and actuators. In rigid robotics, angles are accurately measured with attached encoders or with externally established motion capture systems. However, these are not possible for mobile soft robots. In this paper, we present a hybrid soft sensor for measuring motion. The sensor is made of a hyperelastic silicone elastomer that contains embedded microchannels filled with conductive liquid metal. It also encapsulates two rigid inertial measurement units (IMU) near the edge points of the highly elastic substrate.