Past Events

Date/Time Event Description
28 Mar 2017
2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Talks: By Professor Fumiya Iida & By Professor Robert J. Full
EPFL, Lausanne Suisse
Talks: Model-free design optimization of soft robots: Any hope? By Professor Fumiya Iida (Cambridge Univ.), (14:30 – 15:30). BioMotion Science: Leapin’ Lizards, Compressed Cockroaches and Smart Squirrels Inspire Robots By...
30 Sep – 7 Jan 2016
All Day
The origami robot Tribot from Paik lab is currently at the exhibition in +Ultra Knowledge & Gestaltung in Berlin

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Contactless deflection sensing of concave and convex shapes assisted by soft mirrors

  • Authors: Dobrzynski, Michal; Halasz, Ionut; Pericet Camara, Ramon; Floreano, Dario

Typical deflection sensors like strain gauges or devices based on optical fibers require physical contact with the deflected substrate during the measurement process. Such contact, however, impacts on the softness of the substrate and may falsify the measurements. In order to overcome this drawback, a novel method of contactless deflection sensing was proposed in a recent work. It was verified that the deflection angle between two planes can be extracted using only a photosensor and a light source bearing a bell-shape angular emission profile. Yet, the range of operation was limited to concave shapes. In this paper, we introduce an alternative configuration of this light-based deflection sensing method to extend its functionality to convex surfaces. Here, a spheroidal mirror bearing a customized profile is introduced above the light source. This mirror redirects part of the emitted light towards the photosensor hindered by the bending surface during convex deflections.We make use of a ray tracing simulation method to design the mirror profiles, which are accurately reproduced in the manufactured prototypes by tuning the fabrication variables of the manufacturing process. Using a shape-sensing prototype, it is verified that the use of the mirror extends the range of detectable deflections by 55deg. to convex bendings, yielding a deviation of only 8.3% from simulated results. Our deflection sensing solution is a promising method to be used as a shape sensor in numerous applications, such as soft robotics platforms or prosthetic devices.

Posted on: March 13, 2012

Contactless deflection sensor for soft robots

  • Authors: Dobrzynski, Michal; Pericet Camara, Ramon; Floreano, Dario

In the emerging field of soft robotics, there is an interest in developing new kinds of sensors whose characteristics do not affect the intrinsic compliance of soft robot components. Additionally, non-invasive shape and deflection sensors may provoke improved solutions to assist in the control of mechanical parts in these robots. Herein, we introduce a novel method for deflection sensing where an LED element and a photodiode are placed on to two substrates connected physically or virtually at a deflection point. The deflection angle between the two planes can be extracted from the LED light intensity detected at the photodiode due to the bell-shaped angular intensity profile of the emitted light. The main advantage of this system is that the components are not in physical contact with the deflection region as in the case of strain gauges and similar sensing methods. The sensor is characterized in a range of deflections of 105-180 degrees, showing a near 1 degree resolution. The experimental data are compared to simulations, modeled by ray tracing. The light intensity vs. deflection angle measurements in our setup display a maximum difference of 9% and an average difference of approximately 5% with respect to the model. Finally, a shape monitoring system has been developed using the proposed concept for a flexible PCB. The system is composed of 12 deflection sensors that operate at frame rate of 33 Hz. This device could be applied to monitor the body shape of a soft robot.

Posted on: July 15, 2011

Dielectric Elastomer Actuators for soft-grasping

  • Authors: Shintake, Jun; Rosset, Samuel; Schubert, Bryan Edward; Floreano, Dario; Shea, Herbert

We demonstrate here a configuration of soft actuator which has several features such as, being completely soft, simple, thin, foldable, and stretchable while having uni/bidirectional bending actuation. Theoretically the actuation can be extended to multidirectional. We used Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEA) as a base actuation mechanism, and molded PDMS was used as a substrate of the device.

Posted on: September 5, 2014

Effect of mechanical parameters on dielectric elastomer minimum energy structures

  • Authors: Shintake, Jun; Rosset, Samuel; Floreano, Dario; Shea, Herbert

Soft robotics may provide many advantages compared to traditional robotics approaches based on rigid materials, such as intrinsically safe physical human-robot interaction, efficient/stable locomotion, adaptive morphology, etc. The objective of this study is to develop a compliant structural actuator for soft a soft robot using dielectric elastomer minimum energy structures (DEMES). DEMES consist of a pre-stretched dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) bonded to an initially planar flexible frame, which deforms into an out-of-plane shape which allows for large actuation stroke. Our initial goal is a one-dimensional bending actuator with 90 degree stroke. Along with frame shape, the actuation performance of DEMES depends on mechanical parameters such as thickness of the materials and pre-stretch of the elastomer membrane. We report here the characterization results on the effect of mechanical parameters on the actuator performance. The tested devices use a cm-size flexible-PCB (polyimide, 50 μm thickness) as the frame-material. For the DEA, PDMS (approximately 50 μm thickness) and carbon black mixed with silicone were used as membrane and electrode, respectively. The actuators were characterized by measuring the tip angle and the blocking force as functions of applied voltage. Different pre-stretch methods (uniaxial, biaxial and their ratio), and frame geometries (rectangular with different width, triangular and circular) were used. In order to compare actuators with different geometries, the same electrode area was used in all the devices. The results showed that the initial tip angle scales inversely with the frame width, the actuation stroke and the blocking force are inversely related (leading to an interesting design trade-off), using anisotropic pre-stretch increased the actuation stroke and the initial bending angle, and the circular frame shape exhibited the highest actuation performance.

Posted on: April 22, 2013

Foldable Drones: from Biology to Technology

  • Authors: Floreano, Dario; Mintchev, Stefano; Shintake, Jun

Current drones are developed with a fixed morphology that can limit their versatility and mission capabilities. There is biological evidence that adaptive morphological changes can not only extend dynamic performances, but also provide new functionalities. In this paper, we present different drones from our recent developments where folding is used as a mean of morphological adaptation. First, we show how foldable wings can enable the transition between aerial and ground locomotion or to fly in different aerodynamic conditions, advancing the development of multi-modal drones with an extended mission envelope. Secondly, we show how foldable structures allow to transport drones easily without sacrificing payload or flight endurance. Thirdly, we present a foldable frame that makes drones to withstand collisions. However, the real potential of foldable drones is often limited by the use of conventional design strategies and rigid materials, which motivates to use smart, functional materials. Lastly, we describe a dielectric elastomer based foldable actuator, and a variable stiffness fiber using low melting point alloy for drones. The foldable actuator acts as an active compliant joint with folding functionality and mechanical robustness in drones, thanks to the compliance of dielectric elastomer, a class of smart materials. We also show re-configuration of a drone enabled by the variable stiffness fiber that can transition between rigid and soft states.

Posted on: May 16, 2017


  • Authors: Dobrzynski, Michal; Vanderparre, Hugues; Pericet Camara, Ramon; L"Eplattenier, Géraud; Lacour, Stéphanie; Floreano, Dario

Here we describe a sensor capable of perceiving complex one-dimensional (1-D) shape of an underlying substrate in a static and dynamic manner. The sensor consists of seven, serially connected, hyper-flexible strain gauges, manufactured using stretchable-gold-conductordeposited-on-PDMS technology. The custom designed read-out scheme allows decoupling strain-sensitive resistances of the strain-gauges from the parasitic pressure- and temperature-sensitive resistances of the connectors. The developed prototype device confirms full operation within the tested deflections ranging from 0 o to 35 o, showing an average sensitivity of 36 !/o and an average resolution of 0.22 o. The read-out frequency of 100 Hz allows quick scanning of the whole sensor array.

Posted on: February 20, 2013

Insect-Inspired Mechanical Resilience for Multicopters

  • Authors: Mintchev, Stefano; de Rivaz, Sébastien Douglas; Floreano, Dario

The ease of use and versatility of drones has contributed to their deployment in several fields, from entertainment to search and rescue. However, drones remain vulnerable to collisions due to pilot mistakes or various system failures. This paper presents a bioinspired strategy for the design of quadcopters resilient to collisions. Abstracting the biomechanical strategy of collision resilient insects’ wings, the quadcopter has a dual-stiffness frame that rigidly withstands aerodynamic loads within the flight envelope, but can soften and fold during a collision to avoid damage. The dual-stiffness frame works in synergy with specific energy absorbing materials that protect the sensitive components of the drone hosted in the central case. The proposed approach is compared to other state-of- the art collision-tolerance strategies and is validated in a 50g quadcopter that can withstand high speed collisions.

Posted on: February 18, 2017

Method for fabricating an artificial compound eye

  • Authors: Duparré, Jacques; Brückner, Andreas; Wippermann, Frank; Zufferey, Jean-Christophe; Floreano, Dario; Franceschini, Nicolas; Viollet, Stéphane; Ruffier, Franck

A method for fabricating an imaging system, the method comprising providing a flexible substrate (200), a first layer (220) comprising a plurality of microlenses (232) and a second layer (240) comprising a plurality of image sensors (242). The method further comprises stacking the first and the second layer (220; 240) onto the flexible substrate (200) by attaching the plurality of image sensors (242) to the flexible substrate, such that each of the plurality of microlenses (232) and image sensors (242) are aligned to form a plurality of optical channels (300) , each optical channel comprising at least one microlens and at least one associated image sensor, and mechanically separating the optical channels (300) such that the separated optical channels remain attached to the flexible substrate (200) to form a mechanically flexible imaging system.

Posted on: February 28, 2014

Miniature curved artificial compound eyes

  • Authors: Floreano, Dario; Pericet Camara, Ramon; Viollet, Stéphane; Ruffier, Franck; Brückner, Andreas; Leitel, Robert; Buss, Wolfgang; Menouni, Mohsine; Expert, Fabien; Juston, Raphäel; Dobrzynski, Michal Karol; L"Eplattenier, Géraud; Recktenwald, Fabian; Mallot, Hanspeter A.; Franceschini, Nicolas

In most animal species, vision is mediated by compound eyes, which offer lower resolution than vertebrate single-lens eyes, but significantly larger fields of view with negligible distortion and spherical aberration, and high temporal resolution in a tiny package. Compound eyes are ideally suited for fast panoramic motion perception. Engineering a miniature artificial compound eye is challenging, because it requires accurate alignment of the photoreceptive and optical components on a curved surface. Here we describe a novel design method for biomimetic compound eyes featuring a panoramic, undistorted field of view in a very thin package. The design consists of three planar layers of separately produced arrays, namely, a microlens array, a neuromorphic photodetector array and a flexible printed circuit board, that are stacked, cut and curved to produce a mechanically flexible imager. Following this method, we have prototyped and characterized an artificial compound eye bearing a hemispherical field of view with embedded and programmable low-power signal processing, high temporal resolution, and local adaptation to illumination. The prototyped artificial compound eye possesses several characteristics similar to the eye of the fruit fly Drosophila and other arthropod species. This design method opens up new vistas for a broad range of applications where wide field motion detection is at a premium, such as collision-free navigation of terrestrial and aerospace vehicles, and for the experimental testing of insect vision theories.

Posted on: April 25, 2013

Programmable Self-assembly with Chained Soft Cells: An Algorithm to Fold into 2-D Shapes

  • Authors: Germann, Jürg; Auerbach, Joshua; Floreano, Dario

Programmable self-assembly of chained modules holds potential for the automatic shape formation of morphologically adapted robots. However, current systems are limited to modules of uniform rigidity, which restricts the range of obtainable morphologies and thus the functionalities of the system. To address these challenges, we previously introduced soft cells as modules that can obtain different mechanical softness pre-setting. We showed that such a system can obtain a higher diversity of morphologies compared to state-of-the-art systems and we illustrated the system’s potential by demonstrating the self-assembly of complex morphologies. In this paper, we extend our previous work and present an automatic method that exploits our system’s capabilities in order to find a linear chain of soft cells that self-folds into a target 2-D shape.

Posted on: May 19, 2014