Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Danger Wil Robinson..” to Continuum Robotics, what a ride!

Euhler in his Euler-Cauchy’s stress formula or in his Euhler’s equations of motion has dealt with the distribution of forces and contact force density. This might not mean much off hand but if you were to think about Continuum Mechanics then the entire school of theories and thoughts gets interesting.

Continuum mechanics deals with physical properties of solids and fluids which are independent of any particular coordinate system in which they are observed. These physical properties are then represented by tensors, which are mathematical objects that have the required property of being independent of coordinate system. These tensors can be expressed in coordinate systems for computational convenience.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am expounding on a topic that seems to have little to do with space and the Universe…Well, it all starts with a robot. Remember “Danger Wil Robinson..” How hard and unforgiving the ‘tissue’ of that robot was? Or maybe you are a Stars Wars person, so let’s look at R2D2. Robotics is an active field and the look of Robots vary greatly, but until recently, the touch didn’t vary too much.

Welcome soft robotics.

Soft Robotics is the specific sub-field of robotics dealing with constructing robots from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms. Similarly, soft robotics also draws heavily from the way in which these living organisms move and adapt to their surroundings. In contrast to robots built from rigid materials, soft robots allow for increased flexibility and adaptability for accomplishing tasks, as well as improved safety when working around humans.

Then of course there is the hybrid soft robots that are built with an internal rigid framework and then a soft exterior.

MIT & Harvard have been working at length in the field of soft robotics seeking to make them stronger, but also to make them able to pick up irregular shaped objects (to use, for instance, working in a factory or manufacturing center).
What did this result in?

Scientists at MIT & Harvard were able to devise a new way to outfit the soft robots with more strength and this is done by using origami skeletons in the soft robots. For the muscles, yes, these robots have muscles; the scientists created a sealed bag filled with air or fluid with a folding origami structure inside which becomes the skeleton then in order to make the muscle contract, the pressure inside the bag is reduced, and the artificial muscle contracts just as the muscles in a human body do. The new technique allows the artificial muscles to lift 1,000 times their own weight.

These artificial muscles are little more than flexible actuators, yet the factor used to measure strength changes greatly. AND my tie in to space? These robots could be used in space. 

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