Tuesday 30 September 2014

Soft Robotics 'Toolkit' Has All That a Robot-Maker Wants

Soft Robotics '
The researchers from numerous Harvard University labs in partnership with Trinity College Dublin unveiled a new resource which will provide both the aspiring as well as experienced researchers with academic raw materials required for designing, building and operating the robots made from delicate and flexible materials.

Soft robotics is rising as an increasingly vital field due to the introduction of laser cutters, low-cost 3D printing and other advances in the manufacturing technologies. Based on the principles taken from the traditional rigid robot design engineers are now working with more flexible materials in the use of the soft robotics which can help in whole range of tasks like minimally invasive surgery, physical therapy and rescue operations in hazardous locations.

The Soft Robotics Toolkit can be considered as an online treasure trove, which can be utilized by the users for fabrication, characterization, modeling, design and to control the soft robotic devices through various open-source plans, case studies, how-to videos and downloadable etc. This toolkit will be providing the researchers details to a level which is still not available in any academic research papers and it includes the 3D models, raw experimental data, bills of materials, multimedia step-by-step tutorials and few case studies of different soft robot designs.

According to Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Conor Walsh; the main aim of this toolkit is to press forward the field of soft robotics and at the same time allowing the researchers and designers to build on each other’s work.

By creating a common source of sharing the knowledge, the developers of toolkit are hoping to stimulate the development of new ideas, creations and methods. According to Walsh, the soft robotics is well-matched to shared design tools as many of the necessary components like valves, regulators and microcontrollers are all easily exchangeable between systems. Dónal Holland, a graduate student at Trinity College Dublin as well as visiting lecturer in engineering sciences at SEAS is among the lead developers of the toolkit and is more interested in this toolkit for education purposes. The toolkit has been developed to capture all the expertise in the education field and make is available for the students.

With the open-source software spurring far-flung improvement in computing, open design has the capability to remote partnership on common mechanical engineering projects, setting free the crowdsourced innovation in robotics and other fields. According to assistant professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Trinity College Dublin and a coauthor of a paper in Soft Robotics, Gareth J. Bennett, Open design can also have a disorderly impact on the technological development similar to that of open source.

Almost all the materials available in this toolkit have been taken from chemist George M. Whitesides, Woodford L., Robert J. Wood, Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS and Ann A. Flowers University Professor. Apart from two other researchers helped establishing Harvard as a leader in soft robotics.

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