Currently, manufacturing of self-actuating and self-sensing robots requires non-standard manufacturing techniques and manual assembly steps. In this work, we developed a novel manufacturing technique, where such robots can be mass produced using flexible electronics manufacturing processes. We developed the technique while staying in the factory and using standard industrial machines, processes, and materials. We were able to laminate air pouches or shape memory alloy to produce bending actuators. The bend angle of the actuators is sensed with a chain of inertial measurement units integrated on the actuator. As a showcase, we manufactured a five-legged robot with the developed actuators and bend sensors, as well as all the supporting electronics (e.g., microcontrollers, radio) Such robots are flat and lightweight, thus can be easily transported and deployed. We believe that our technique can allow more inexpensive and faster deployment of self-actuating and self-sensing robots in a wide range of applications.
This work was done in collaboration with Jie Qi during Hacking Manufacturing class in Shenzhen China, at King Credie Electronics factory.
A. Dementyev, J. Qi, J. Ou, J. Paradiso, “Mass Manufacturing of Self-Actuating Robots: Integrating Sensors and Actuators using Flexible Electronics” in Proc. of IROS’18 (pdf)