Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SHERO (Self-HEaling soft RObotics)
Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-05-31
The breakthrough targeted in the project is the development of complete robotic systems that are able to feel pain (sense microscopic and macroscopic damage), react intelligently to relieve the pain (evaluate performance and prevent catastrophic failure), take the necessary measures to heal the damage and to restore all functions (induce or facilitate a controlled autonomous or non-autonomous healing of damaged elements), perform a rehabilitation (evaluate the quality of the healing process and take measures accordingly), and, finally, return to action. The unique, integrated design of SH capabilities in robotic systems with intelligent control will lead to lighter, more efficient, more reliable and more sustainable designs, as preventive and corrective healing will drastically increase the performance lifetime and reliability of such systems, even under unpredictable conditions.
The following three research objectives will be pursued:
Development, characterization and tuning of self healing materials and its processing techniques for complex geometries and intelligent design.
Development of self-healing actuator systems, deformation and damage sensing capabilities and dedicated smart control and response system.
Development and validation of fully autonomous self-healing demonstrators with dedicated intelligence.
Moreover a review paper on self healing polymers for soft robotics is developed, which aims to bridge between the self-healing materials research field and the soft robotics community. From a first literature study it is concluded that soft robots are volnurable and can be damaged through various damaging modes, including fatigue, delamination, overloading, tendon cut and by sharp objects. This stressed the need for a healing ability which allows to recover from these damages and consequently reduce maintenance in and the ecological impact of future robotics. However, to provide an economical and ecological solution for the volnurability of soft robots, the SH polymers that can be used need to meet five basic criteria, proposed in this review. Based on these, SH mechanisms with limited potential are excluded. For the remaining, based on performance parameters, including mechanical strength, healing efficiency and healing times, examples with exceptional suitable properties for soft robotics were sought in the literature, listed and compared. Throughout the paper, it discussed how the underlying chemistry impacts the performance parameters, which are provided in overview tables. From this extensive analysis it is conclude, that taking in account some limitations and trade-offs in material properties, many SH mechanisms can be directly used to construct healable soft robotic components.
Already from the start, a large exposure in popular press has been achieved by the project, highlighting not only its public relevancy but also how well this marriage of self-healing and soft robotics resonates with the general public. Highly motivated by this public resonance, the SHERO-team is currently performing its research to develop working demonstrators that amalgamates the expertises of all partners. These demonstrators will be used to bring the innovation to a higher TRL and to gain interest for further R&D and for commercial interest. Indeed, a first spin-off of SHERO has already been generated by the start of the SMART Innovative Training Network, which is a joint venture between academia and industry centered around the multidisciplinary fields of soft robotics and smart materials. Additionally, other European and national funding schemes are targeted by the partners.
SHERO’s unprecedented integrated approach targeted at lighter, more efficient, more reliable and more sustainable robotic designs, will drastically increase the performance lifetimes and reliability of soft robotic systems. Additionally, it will contribute to the ‘Circular Electronics Initiative’ as recently started by the European Commission. Clearly, these results will not only be used to target the soft robotics community, but also other application areas, all benefiting from more reliable and sustainable products thereby eminently targeting the need for a circular economy in Europe.