Soft Robotics

The ACES Soft Robotics theme uses the mechanical actuation and sensing properties of selected electromaterials to develop new robotic systems.

Grand Challenge: To develop prosthetic limbs compatible with natural control.

The Soft Robotics Program sets out to develop revolutionary new robotic systems that capitalise on the mechanical actuation and sensing properties of electromaterials.

We are building a multi-digit 3D robotic prosthetic hand that aims to deliver new benchmarks in performance with the integration of individual components and breakthroughs in 3D materials assembly. The hand will feature a control system, programmable mechanical compliance, integrated sensors and a neural interface system to overcome the agility, dexterity and fluidity of movement challenges of conventional robots made of rigid components and conventional materials.

 

Our Strengths: This theme draws on our expertise in electromaterials capable of mechanical actuation and sensing; the design and modelling of new actuator and robotic systems; the development of novel modes of actuation and sensing; 3D fabrication, enabling new device designs; and robotics, and system dynamics and control.

 

Research Goals:

  • Develop actuating and sensing materials amenable to additive fabrication.
  • Produce desired mechanical properties and volume transitions for actuator and sensor performance.
  • Develop an integrated system of actuators, sensors and support systems.
  • Build a multi-digit 3D robotic prosthetic hand.
  • Equip the prosthetic with a control system, programmable mechanical compliance, integrated sensors and a neural interface system.

 

Applications:

  • Industrial, agricultural, personal and prosthetic robotic systems;
  • Miniature pumps and valves;
  • Surgical and medical tools;
  • Wearable prosthetics and exoskeletons;
  • Robot manipulators and mechanical positioners.

 

Case Study

The Project: A soft, compliant and wearable device for hand rehabilitation.

The Challenge: Developing a soft, robotic prosthetic to rehabilitate patients who, through illness or injury, have lost hand or finger function.

The Research: Researchers aim to develop a soft, low-cost, prosthetic device which responds to stimuli or instruction like an actual hand or finger. The prosthetic will be designed so that it can be retrofitted to hands and fingers of many sizes, forms around existing body parts, and is safe and user-friendly.

They will achieve this by:

  • Developing a soft pneumatic actuation system with a low (small) footprint;
  • Undertaking the topology optimisation of the device fingers which can adapt to various finger or hand sizes; and
  • Fabricate them using additive manufacturing and moulding techniques.

The Impact: The resulting prosthetic device will offer a user-friendly, low-cost and effective way to treat the loss of finger and/or hand movements due to spinal or neurological damage such as strokes, overuse syndromes like repetitive strain injury, as well as variou physical injuries.

In the future, it could also pave the way for the development of devices to restore the function of other limbs.

Facility Options

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