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Workshop / Seminar

MME Seminar: Soft Robotics and Architectured Materials: A Designer’s Perspective

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About the event

Dr. Girish Krishnan, Associate Professor in the Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana– Champaign

While robots and engineering artifacts are becoming increasingly smart, innovations in their structural design have not kept pace. Most robots still consist of myriad bulky rigid parts connected by interfaces or joints leading to non-optimal performance. In contrast, around 90% of nature’s species (invertebrates) are designed seamlessly and use material elasticity to undergo spatial continuum deformation. In this talk, I will demonstrate the translation of this bioinspired design paradigm, namely distributed compliance in two fields: soft robotics and architectured materials. Applying the paradigm of distributed compliance to soft mechanisms leads to a class of soft robotic building blocks that combine fibers, pressurized fluids and stretchable elastomeric skins. However, robots engineered with soft building blocks alone exhibit several trade-offs including (a) dexterity vs design complexity, (b) precision vs adaptability. Furthermore, there is an inherent challenge to design, model and control these mechanisms as there is a sophisticated coupling of the local microstructure with large global deformations. I will present some techniques to address these challenges and trade-offs by employing calculus of variations, reduced order modeling methods and reinforcement learning. Furthermore, I will showcase how these advances have enabled permeation of soft mechanisms in two unique applications (i) soft orthosis for crutch users, and (ii) a soft continuum arm for agricultural berry harvesting.  In the second part of my talk, I will introduce a new visual technique to design mechanical metamaterials with engineered properties. Furthermore, I present some preliminary work on how mechanical metamaterials with embedded actuation can lead to novel shape adaptive structures.


Prof. Girish Krishnan is an Associate Professor in the Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He obtained a PhD degree from University of Michigan in 2011, and a Masters degree from Indian Institute of Science Bangalore in 2007. Prof. Krishnan is the recipient of the 2015 NSF Early Career award (CAREER), 2016 UIUC council award for excellence in advising and 2017 Freudestein Young Investigator award (ASME). He has published around 25 peer-reviewed journals, 40 conference proceedings, and holds two patents.