Sponge makes robotic system a delicate contact

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Robotic sponge. Picture credit score: Tianqi Yue

This easy-to-make sponge-jamming system will help stiff robots deal with delicate gadgets fastidiously by mimicking the nuanced contact, or variable stiffness, of a human.

Robots can skip, soar and do somersaults, however they’re too inflexible to carry an egg simply. Variable-stiffness units are potential options for contact compliance on arduous robots to scale back injury, or for bettering the load capability of soppy robots.

This research, revealed on the IEEE Worldwide Convention on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2023, reveals that variable stiffness will be achieved by a silicone sponge.

Lead creator Tianqi Yue from Bristol’s Division of Engineering Arithmetic defined: “Stiffness, also referred to as softness, is vital in touch eventualities.

“Robotic arms are too inflexible so they can not make such a delicate human-like grasp on delicate objects, for instance, an egg.

“What makes people completely different from robotic arms is that we’ve got delicate tissues enclosing inflexible bones, which act as a pure mitigating mechanism.

“On this paper, we managed to develop a delicate system with variable stiffness, to be mounted on the tip robotic arm for making the robot-object contact protected.”

Robotic sponge in motion. Video Credit score: Tianqi Yue.

Silicone sponge is an affordable and easy-to-fabricate materials. It’s a porous elastomer identical to the cleansing sponge utilized in on a regular basis duties.

By squeezing the sponge, the sponge stiffens which is why it may be reworked right into a variable-stiffness system.

This system could possibly be utilized in industrial robots in eventualities together with gripping jellies, eggs and different fragile substances. It may also be utilized in service robots to make human-robot interplay safer.

Mr Yue added: “We managed to make use of a sponge to make an affordable and nimble however efficient system that may assist robots obtain delicate contact with objects. The good potential comes from its low price and lightweight weight.

“We imagine this silicone-sponge primarily based variable-stiffness system will present a novel answer in business and healthcare, for instance, tunable-stiffness requirement on robotic sharpening and ultrasound imaging.”

The staff will now have a look at making the system obtain variable stiffness in a number of instructions, together with rotation.

Paper: “A Silicone-sponge-based Variable-stiffness Machine” by Tianqi Yue on the IEEE Worldwide Convention on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2023.


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