Manufacturing techniques of soft robotics

Thomas Wallin


Conventional robots are composed of rigid components with discrete linkages that promote high precision and controllability; however, these systems require complex sensing and feedback controls and can struggle to perform in uncontrolled conditions.  Soft robots, by comparison, reduce the control complexity and manufacturing cost, while simultaneously allowing new, sophisticated functions.  While earlier generations of soft robots were limited architecturally and functionally, recent advances in materials and additive manufacturing technologies have enabled new and exciting capabilities.   In this talk, I will begin by discussing the essential elements of soft robots, highlighting the pertinent material properties.  Then I will describe the advantages and limitations of the different 3D printing technologies employed in both the indirect and direct fabrication of soft actuators.  For each manufacturing technique, we will discuss the compatible material classes with a focus on actuation and/or sensing mechanisms.