Category Archives: robot

2015 Material Actuation – Addition Modification and Subtraction


2015 Material Actuation, was part of introduction to the course Material and Detail at Chalmers University of Technology. During two weeks student teams investigated three modes of material actuation. Addition, four students constructed and tested an EPS extruder. Modification, four students constructed and tested a CNC metal-plate bender. Subtraction, four students constructed and tested a large scale CNC hotwire cutting system, able to cut EPS foam blocks up to 1200x1200x600mm. All projects made use of a large scale robotic arm. back


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The MAKE:lab at Chalmers

20141108_Make02AMaterial Actuation and Kinetic Experimentation Laboratory at Chalmers was founded by Stig Anton Nielsen in September 2015 as a consequence of both the donation of a large industry robotic arm, and the funding for quality in education at Chalmers. The laboratory will provide the students and researchers with the opportunity to develop ideas on more advanced material explorations, based on actuator systems and sensor systems. So far one intense workshop has taken place during two weeks of October 2015.

Sensor Composite Beam

The sensor Composite beam explores embedded sensors, and representation of data. The beam is a composite of glass fibers, a thermoplastic polymer, and sensor active sheets. An IC shifts through reading each of the 10 sensors(two rows of five in each side). Readings are displayed through a virtual model representing the beam.




A 1:1 interactive prototype able to affect in a human scale. It investigates the man-machine relation. It is intimidating in size but the materials and behaviour has a soft and calm intention. It was a part of the Urbanbody study at TUDelft. The project is done in collaboration with Michal Gdak (PL) in 2005.

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Underactuated Gripper



We designed, created and tested an underactuated soft gripper able to hold everyday objects of various shapes and sizes without using complex hardware or control algorithms, but rather by combining sheets of flexible plastic materials and a single servo motor. Starting with a prototype where simple actuation performs complex varied gripping operations solely through the material system and its inherent physical computation, the paper discusses how embodied computation might exist in a material aggregate by tuning and balancing its morphology and material properties.

We can define embodied computation as information processing in which the physical realization and the physical environment play an unavoidable and essential role [1]. In this paper we will discuss embodied computation and suggest a material system that has reduced actuation complexity and performs gripping instead through an embodied material computation. Human-robot Interaction can manifest indirectly, in the sense that robots should be able to interact with the same environments humans do. This requires a certain resemblance between robots and humans: in behavior, morphology, materiality, and scale. But how do we determine what similarities relevant, and should we mimic or replicate these mechanisms? What aspects of embodied computation are relevant to the design of material systems, morphology, and material behavior? One major challenge in robotics is picking up and holding everyday objects without crushing them. For that we have created an adaptive, robust gripper able to interact with a large number of real objects from an office environment and with humans. Traditionally in computer-science, software has been developed and analyzed separately from hardware. In embodied computing the computation is seen as happening ”as a physical system in continuing interaction with other physical systems (its environment)”. [1]. Information processing is implicit here because the physical environment performs some computations for free. Redstr¨om argues that computers can be seen as a kind of material, and that their computational capabilities must be combined with other kinds of materials in order to create a computational composite, so that the computer becomes useful in design [2]. This paper contributes a design of an underactuated gripper, a computational aggregate made up of material composites in a soft mechanical system, with an emphasis on morphology and material behavior interacting with the real environment. II. RELATED WORK Many robotic hand designs focus on mechanically replicating the human hand, controlling each joint independently using many actuators. On the other hand, underaction designs employ less actuators in order to control a larger number of joints. One of the first examples of an underactuated soft gripper, similar to a bicycle chain, was developed using pulleys and twenty articulations. It was able to conform objects of arbitrary shapes [3]. However, the design of this gripper only permitted holding an object in one plane. Another example of a soft universal gripper could conform around a complex object from all sides, and hold it by contracting the granular material it was made from [4]. This is a good example of embodied computing where a computational composite is used. The granular material automatically computes and shapes around an object, simplifying and avoiding the problems multifingered robotic hands experience when needing to compute the force and position required to control each finger. A simple design employing material intelligence can thus avoid both hardware and software complexities.


Extracting Data for The Making


The interactive exhibition set up at Chalmers Campus was inviting bypassers to build on the structures, that were constantly guided by local sensor information. The structure would balance airflow, shading and balance all at the same time, but with a hierarchical Subsumption architecture, inspired by Rodney Brooks’ research on autonomous robots and artificial intelligence.







Publication: Layered subsumption embodied in units of intelligent material building systems 2014.