Enabling Complexity in Soft Robotics: Manufacturing and Control of Multi-Scale Systems

January 13, 2021 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm America/New York Timezone

Robotics and Automation Society

Speaker: Prof. Tommaso Ranzani

Meeting Location: Zoom Meeting (online)

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/enabling-complexity-in-soft-robotics-tickets-132968872477

The talk will be followed by the 2021 Chapter Elections.

Soft robots are constructed from compliant materials, resulting in machines that can safely interact with natural environments. Given their inherent compliance, they are particularly suitable for exploring and interacting with unstructured environments, and manipulating soft, delicate, and irregular objects. These properties make soft robots promising for biomedical applications, such as wearable and medical devices. While they can be low cost and easy to manufacture, soft robots can also be difficult to control due to their typical reliance on external pressure sources that can become bulky as more degrees of freedom are introduced to the robot.

During this talk, I will describe progress in soft robotics and its potential for revolutionizing biomedical devices. I will introduce a soft manipulator inspired by the structure and the manipulation capabilities of the octopus tentacle, which is able to selectively tune its stiffness. I will introduce the potential of soft robotics at the millimeter and micrometer scales, addressing the challenge of manufacturing complex mesoscale three-dimensional soft structures using two-dimensional processes involving laser machining, lamination, and soft lithography. These manufacturing processes could pave the way for soft microrobots as well as a new class of deployable, small, and safe medical devices. Ultimately, I will discuss challenges and opportunities in controlling soft multi-DOF robots focusing on the integration of onboard flow-control components.

Tommaso Ranzani is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and in the Division of Materials Science and Engineering at Boston University. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa, Italy. He did his Ph.D. at the BioRobotics Institute of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies and he joined the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014.

At Boston University, he founded the Morphable Biorobotics Lab. The lab focuses on expanding the potential of soft robots across different scales to develop novel reconfigurable soft-bodied systems with applications ranging from environmental exploration to assistive and surgical soft robots.