Soft robotics is now on the verge of either succeeding as a transformative technology with high, long-term impact or fading into obscurity. For soft robotics to take the thriving path, the development of a scalable design and manufacturing methodology plays a key breakthrough. The past decade's exploratory phase in soft robotics has unveiled a range of sensors, actuators, and other vital components. Yet, a frequent challenge arises when trying to integrate diverse components into a singular soft robotic platform due to the incompatibility in design, materials, and fabrication methods among these components. This incompatibility often forces us to resort to conventional glues, bolts-and-nuts, and jumper cables to bridge the gaps between components. Such an approach results in a heavy and bulky integrated system that doesn't match the performance of its individual components, thereby failing to address the needs of real-world applications. Given these motivations, this talk focuses on the design and fabrication strategies for bio-inspired soft robots, allowing for the seamless system-level integration of multiscale, multifunctional components into compact, low-profile form factors. Examples to be discussed in this talk include 1) adhesion-based multiscale soft grippers integrated with gecko-inspired microfiber adhesives, 2) CMOS-inspired electronics-free fluidic circuits for system-level integration between pneumatic logic controllers and soft actuators, and 3) deployable microelectrode arrays integrated with soft robotic fluidic actuators for minimally invasive brain monitoring.
Sukho Song is a group leader in the Laboratory of Sustainability Robotics at Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) in Switzerland. He was a postdoctoral researcher at EPFL in Switzerland and at Seoul National University in South Korea. He obtained his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University in USA, while working as a research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. Dr. Song's research sits at the intersection of microfabrication and soft robotics to develop multi-scale soft robotic devices for varied applications like bioelectronic interfaces, electronics-free operation of soft robots, and bioinspired adhesion in soft grippers.