Special Issue "Soft Robotics"

A special issue of Biomimetics (ISSN 2313-7673).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Barbara Mazzolai

Research Director, Center for Micro-BioRobotics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, I-56025 Pontedera, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Phone: + 39 050 883444
Interests: bioinspired soft robotics; plant inspired technologies and materials; soft actuators and sensors.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

What is a soft robot? Robotics is the science of building machines that interact with the world around them, move parts of their own, perform tasks that a human might tackle and are programmable, or, in some cases, capable of making certain decisions. The approach to take inspiration from nature and use soft deformable and variable stiffness technologies represents an innovative trend in robotics, which has generated new branches, such as bioinspired robotics and soft robotics, respectively. The importance of soft body parts appears clear in many natural organisms, as animals that are composed almost entirely of soft materials and liquids have increased adaptability and robustness. Grasping and manipulation of unknown objects, locomotion on unstructured and rough terrains, proving safer contact with humans, are just some of the tasks a soft robot is asked to perform.

The integration of functions and the hybrid assembly of soft materials represent key aspects for achieving autonomous soft robots. There is a growing belief that soft materials may help go beyond capacities of current robotics technology. The use of soft materials or deformable structures provides robots with more advanced and efficient abilities, such as squeezing, stretching, climbing, growing, morphing, and others, which were not possible with an approach to robot design based on only rigid links. At the same time, this approach poses challenges to science and technology, which include understanding the ways that robots can adapt their morphologies to the environment, making more difficult control solutions in computational terms, defining new design rules, but also in developing and adopting innovative manufacturing technologies.

Soft robotics is still taking its first steps, but it has already driven promising robotics application scenarios, which include biomedical, service, inspection, search-and-rescue, exploration, opening new perspectives for improving wellness and quality of life.

We invite authors to submit original research and review articles, which stimulate the continuing efforts to understand and improve knowledge in this field.

Dr. Barbara Mazzolai
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Biomimetics is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) is waived for well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this issue. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • soft robots
  • soft sensors
  • soft actuators
  • bioinspired materials design, characterization and modeling
  • biomimetics
  • bioinspired design
  • soft autonomous locomotion
  • soft manufacturing techniques
  • soft materials
  • self-healing materials
  • bioinspired surfaces
  • bioinspired adhesion
  • self-cleaning materials
  • responsive materials and actuators
  • sensing materials

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Modular Continuum Manipulator: Analysis and Characterization of Its Basic Module
Received: 18 December 2017 / Revised: 20 January 2018 / Accepted: 2 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
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Abstract
We present the basic module of a modular continuum arm (soft compliant manipulator for broad applications (SIMBA)). SIMBA is a robotic arm with a hybrid structure, namely a combination of rigid and soft components, which makes the arm highly versatile, dexterous, and robust.
[...] Read more.
We present the basic module of a modular continuum arm (soft compliant manipulator for broad applications (SIMBA)). SIMBA is a robotic arm with a hybrid structure, namely a combination of rigid and soft components, which makes the arm highly versatile, dexterous, and robust. These key features are due to the design of its basic module, which is characterized by a three-dimensional workspace with a constant radius around its rotation axis, large and highly repeatable bending, complete rotation, and passive stiffness. We present an extensive analysis and characterization of the basic module of the SIMBA arm in terms of design, fabrication, kinematic model, stiffness, and bending behavior. All the theoretical models presented were validated with empirical results. Our findings show a positional typical error of less than ≈6% in module diameter (highly repeatable) with a passive stiffness of 0.8 N/mm (≈1 kg load). Our aim is to demonstrate that this kind of robotic element can be exploited as an elementary module of a more complex structure, which can be used in any application requiring high directional stiffness but without the need for an active stiffness mechanism, as is the case in daily activities (e.g., door opening, water pouring, obstacle avoidance, and manipulation tasks). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Robotics)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Moving toward Soft Robotics: A Decade Review of the Design of Hand Exoskeletons
Biomimetics 2018, 3(3), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/biomimetics3030017
Received: 11 May 2018 / Revised: 11 July 2018 / Accepted: 13 July 2018 / Published: 18 July 2018
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Abstract
Soft robotics is a branch of robotics that deals with mechatronics and electromechanical systems primarily made of soft materials. This paper presents a summary of a chronicle study of various soft robotic hand exoskeletons, with different electroencephalography (EEG)- and electromyography (EMG)-based instrumentations and
[...] Read more.
Soft robotics is a branch of robotics that deals with mechatronics and electromechanical systems primarily made of soft materials. This paper presents a summary of a chronicle study of various soft robotic hand exoskeletons, with different electroencephalography (EEG)- and electromyography (EMG)-based instrumentations and controls, for rehabilitation and assistance in activities of daily living. A total of 45 soft robotic hand exoskeletons are reviewed. The study follows two methodological frameworks: a systematic review and a chronological review of the exoskeletons. The first approach summarizes the designs of different soft robotic hand exoskeletons based on their mechanical, electrical and functional attributes, including the degree of freedom, number of fingers, force transmission, actuation mode and control strategy. The second approach discusses the technological trend of soft robotic hand exoskeletons in the past decade. The timeline analysis demonstrates the transformation of the exoskeletons from rigid ferrous materials to soft elastomeric materials. It uncovers recent research, development and integration of their mechanical and electrical components. It also approximates the future of the soft robotic hand exoskeletons and some of their crucial design attributes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Robotics)
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Open AccessReview Capability by Stacking: The Current Design Heuristic for Soft Robots
Biomimetics 2018, 3(3), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/biomimetics3030016
Received: 1 June 2018 / Revised: 8 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 July 2018 / Published: 13 July 2018
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Abstract
Soft robots are a new class of systems being developed and studied by robotics scientists. These systems have a diverse range of applications including sub-sea manipulation and rehabilitative robotics. In their current state of development, the prevalent paradigm for the control architecture in
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Soft robots are a new class of systems being developed and studied by robotics scientists. These systems have a diverse range of applications including sub-sea manipulation and rehabilitative robotics. In their current state of development, the prevalent paradigm for the control architecture in these systems is a one-to-one mapping of controller outputs to actuators. In this work, we define functional blocks as the physical implementation of some discrete behaviors, which are presented as a decomposition of the behavior of the soft robot. We also use the term ‘stacking’ as the ability to combine functional blocks to create a system that is more complex and has greater capability than the sum of its parts. By stacking functional blocks a system designer can increase the range of behaviors and the overall capability of the system. As the community continues to increase the capabilities of soft systems—by stacking more and more functional blocks—we will encounter a practical limit with the number of parallelized control lines. In this paper, we review 20 soft systems reported in the literature and we observe this trend of one-to-one mapping of control outputs to functional blocks. We also observe that stacking functional blocks results in systems that are increasingly capable of a diverse range of complex motions and behaviors, leading ultimately to systems that are capable of performing useful tasks. The design heuristic that we observe is one of increased capability by stacking simple units—a classic engineering approach. As we move towards more capability in soft robotic systems, and begin to reach practical limits in control, we predict that we will require increased amounts of autonomy in the system. The field of soft robotics is in its infancy, and as we move towards realizing the potential of this technology, we will need to develop design tools and control paradigms that allow us to handle the complexity in these stacked, non-linear systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Robotics)
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Open AccessReview Hydrogel Actuators and Sensors for Biomedical Soft Robots: Brief Overview with Impending Challenges
Biomimetics 2018, 3(3), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/biomimetics3030015
Received: 30 April 2018 / Revised: 12 June 2018 / Accepted: 25 June 2018 / Published: 10 July 2018
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Abstract
There are numerous developments taking place in the field of biorobotics, and one such recent breakthrough is the implementation of soft robots—a pathway to mimic nature’s organic parts for research purposes and in minimally invasive surgeries as a result of their shape-morphing and
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There are numerous developments taking place in the field of biorobotics, and one such recent breakthrough is the implementation of soft robots—a pathway to mimic nature’s organic parts for research purposes and in minimally invasive surgeries as a result of their shape-morphing and adaptable features. Hydrogels (biocompatible, biodegradable materials that are used in designing soft robots and sensor integration), have come into demand because of their beneficial properties, such as high water content, flexibility, and multi-faceted advantages particularly in targeted drug delivery, surgery and biorobotics. We illustrate in this review article the different types of biomedical sensors and actuators for which a hydrogel acts as an active primary material, and we elucidate their limitations and the future scope of this material in the nexus of similar biomedical avenues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Robotics)
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