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This work presents the design and testing of a soft robot for water utility pipeline inspection. The preliminary findings of this new approach to conventional methods of pipe inspection demonstrate that a soft inflatable robot can successfully traverse the interior space of a range of diameter pipes without the need of adjusting mechanical components. The robot utilizes inflatable soft actuators with adjustable radius which, when pressurized, can mobilize the robot inside the pipe, or anchor it in place.
The human hand comprises complex sensorimotor functions that can be impaired by neurological diseases and traumatic injuries. Effective rehabilitation can bring the impaired hand back to a functional state because of the plasticity of the central nervous system to relearn and remodel the lost synapses in the brain. Current rehabilitation therapies focus on strengthening motor skills, such as grasping, employ multiple objects of varying stiffness so that affected persons can experience a wide range of strength training.
This work focuses on the design, development and evaluation of a soft-inflatable exosuit for knee rehabilitation. Soft-inflatable actuators made of heat-sealable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) materials are fabricated in beam-like structures of I cross-section and mechanically characterized for their torque performance in knee-extension assistance. The soft-inflatable actuators are integrated into a light-weight, low-cost and bodyconforming interface to assist the quadricep muscle groups during walking.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) affects roughly 3%-6% of the working population ages 18-64. This affliction is caused by applying stress on the median nerve that is routed through the carpal tunnel while it is at a positive or negative angle, greater than 15 degrees in either direction, to the human wrist. The median nerve can become inflamed and swollen due to pressure from the palmar carpal ligament causing numbness, stiffness and in some cases severe pain. Tasks like typing can become nearly impossible when the median nerve is inflamed.
This work presents a portable, soft robotic glove designed to augment hand rehabilitation and/or offer assistance to individuals with functional grasp pathologies. The robotic glove utilizes soft actuators consisting of molded elastomeric chambers with fiber reinforcements that induce specific bending, twisting and extending trajectories under fluid pressurization. These soft actuators were mechanically programmed to match and support the range of motion of individual fingers.
Closing small defects in the body typically requires stitching of tissues during surgery. Toward a minimally invasive approach, we engineered a balloon catheter with a reflective surface coating that could be used to adhere biodegradable patches to tissues. The device unfolds the patch and its adhesive, delivers ultraviolet (UV) light, and then applies pressure to stabilize the adhesive as the light cures the polymer.
This project presents a device designed to reduce muscular effort during downhill walking. The designed solution is a soft wearable exoskeleton consisting of an air spring, a wearable soft fabric interface that attaches the air spring to the user's body, and an integrated smart sensing and pneumatic control system. After prototyping of the device, initial evaluation was performed, showing that the device successfully produced a resistive torque of 5 Nm, decreasing torque on the knee by 10% for a 58 kg individual on a 20 degree slope.
Soft robots actuated by inflation of a pneumatic network (a “pneu-net”) of small channels in elastomeric materials are appealing for producing sophisticated motions with simple controls. Although current designs of pneu-nets achieve motion with large amplitudes, they do so relatively slowly (over seconds). This work presents a new design for pneu-nets that reduces the amount of gas needed for inflation of the pneu-net, and thus increases its speed of actuation.
Soft fluidic actuators consisting of elastomeric matrices with embedded flexible materials are of particular interest to the robotics community because they are affordable and can be easily customized to a given application. However, the significant potential of such actuators is currently limited as their design has typically been based on intuition. In this work, a soft bending actuator consisting of a hemi-cylindrical composite tube with anisotropic bulk material properties consisting of elastomer with embedded helically wound fibers and a thin flexible sheet is presented.
Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is a surgical technique that uses several small incisions—between 5mm and 15mm—rather than a single large incision to operate on tissues. While MIS provides a number of benefits over traditional open surgeries—including reduced pain and recovery times—significant time is spent mobilizing organs (removing the connective tissues that keep organs in place) and retracting them so that the organs of interest can be accessed during more complex procedures.