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Researchers develop robotic fabric that moves & contracts
Sep '14
A new approach that could bring "active clothing" and a new class of "soft" robots is under way as, researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors.

The robotic fabric is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy that return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move.

From this type of elastic technology, it is possible to make robots that have sensory skin, stretchable robotic garments that people might wear for added strength and endurance.

The robotic fabric can be wrapped around a block of foam or an inflated balloon. Orienting the fabric in one direction causes the robot to bend, producing locomotion like an inchworm's.

Orienting the fabric in a different direction causes it to compress - producing a peristaltic - or slithering locomotion.

The goal is to make possible a class of soft robots where all the functional elements are embedded in a stretchable skin.

This skin will include flexible electronics that are less sensitive to vibration than conventional hardware, making them rugged enough for space missions.

Such a technology could allow space travelers to ship lightweight, easy-to-store sheets of robotic skin for assembly once they reach their destination.

Like the robotic fabric, the skin might be wrapped around a deformable object, creating robots capable of exploring alien terrains.

The findings are detailed in a research paper presented during the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

The paper was authored by doctoral students Michelle Yuen, Arun Cherian, Jennifer Case and Justin Seipel and Kramer.

"We will be able to design robots on the fly as anything can be a robot because all of the robotic technology is in the fabric or skin”, said Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

She added, "We also use standard sewing techniques to introduce the thread-like actuators and sensors into the fabric, so they could conceivably be integrated into the existing textile manufacturing infrastructure." (AR)

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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