Soft robotics is a growing field inspired by the soft bodies found in nature such as octopus, caterpillars, worms, etc. These species are able to interact with soft, hard and complex environments intelligently without damaging themselves or the objects they interact with. Learning from nature to understand the fundamental mechanisms that underpin such activity and transfer those to soft robots or finding similar bio-inspired mechanisms is an essential inspiration in soft robotic development. Specifically, contact interfaces play an important role as physical phenomena such as adhesion and friction lie in the vicinity of the contact and open new possibilities for providing robots with controlled interactions.
This project concerns the development of flexible soft surfaces that can be used in robotics contexts where soft skins are important: think of human interaction or fruit picking. Our main focus is tuning the interfacial dynamics such as adhesion / friction using novel chemistry and custom patterned soft interfaces generated using 3D printers. Also, not only the control of physical parameters but also providing the sensing ability in the soft skins is a goal of the project: sensing further enhancements the robotic ability for controlled grip on objects by soft grippers.
This project is part of a collaboration with the Department of Experimental Zoology and Farm Technology group at WUR and embedded in the 4TU project on soft robotics.