In January 2019, two PhD students from the Defrost team defended their PhD thesis in soft-robotics and simulation.
Congratulations to Dr. Eulalie Coevoet and Dr. Zhongkai Zhang!
Soft robotics draws its inspiration from nature, from the way living organisms move and adapt their shape to their environment. In opposition to traditional rigid robots, soft robots are built from highly compliant materials, allowing them to accomplish tasks with more flexibility and adaptability. They are safer when working in fragile environment. They have the advantages of producing low forces that are suitable for manipulating/interacting with sensitive objects/surroundings without harming them. These characteristics allow for potential use of soft robotics in the fields of manufacturing and medicine.
But the field of soft-robotics brings new challenges, in particular for modeling and control. Eulalie and Zhongkai worked on two different topics in this field:
Eulalie’s thesis now allows to control several types of actuation, such as cable, pneumatic and hydraulic actuations. New methods are also proposed to include contacts into the optimization process.
Zhongkai’s innovation resides in using the soft robot itself as a force sensor. Relying on either marker-based or marker-free methods, external forces can be accurately estimated.