Very First Completely Soft-autonomous Robot

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Soft-robotics can transform how individuals communicate with machines. But experts have struggled to develop entirely compliant robots. Electric control and power systems, like circuit boards and batteries, are rigid till soft-bodied robots have been either tethered to an off-board system or infused with hard components.

Robert Wood, the Charles River Lecturer of Applied Sciences and Engineering and Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Applied Sciences and Engineering headed the research. Wood and Lewis are also the faculty members of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard University.

Figure 1: Soft-bodied robot, Octobot


“One established vision for the panel of soft robotics has been to prepare robots that are completely soft, but the scuffle has always been in substituting rigid elements like electronic controls and batteries with analogous soft devices and then placing it all together,” says Wood. “This study illustrates that we can conveniently manufacture the core components of a soft, simple robot that places the foundation for more intricate designs.”

“Through the hybrid assembly method, we were competent to 3D print each of the functional elements needed within the soft robot body, comprising the storage of fuel, actuation, and power, in a swift manner,” says Lewis. “The octobot is a modest embodiment crafted to illustrate our integrated additive and design fabrication technique features of dexterity and strength with no interior skeleton."

The Octobot from Harvard is pneumatic based, which implies that it is triggered by gas under pressure. A reaction within the bot alters a tiny volume of liquid fuel (hydrogen peroxide) into a big amount of gas that flows into the arms of Octobot and fills them like a balloon.

Fuel sources for soft robots have always trusted on some form of rigid elements,” says Michael Wehner, a postdoctoral associate in the Wood Lab. “The amazing thing about hydrogen peroxide is that a humble reaction between the catalyst and chemical – in such case platinum – enables us to replace the rigid power resources.”  For controlling the reaction, the group utilized a microfluidic logic circuit on the basis of pioneering work by the chemist and co-author.

The overall system is simple to structure, by linking three fabrication techniques – soft molding, lithography and 3D printing, we can efficiently create these devices,” says Ryan Turby, a graduate in the Lewis Lab. The simplicity of the process of assembly routes the way for more intricate patterns. Next, the Harvard group hopes to create an Octobot that can swim, interact and crawl with its environment.

Conclusion - “This study is a proof of concept,” says Truby. “We consider that our technique core preparing soft autonomous robotics inspires material scientists, researchers and robotics emphasizing on advanced manufacturing.”