MRC Seminar: Enabling robots to function in complex and unstructured environments

Friday, April 21, 2023
2:00 p.m.
JMP 2116

Enabling robots to function in complex and unstructured environments

Streaming Link

Tom Ranzani
Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering
Boston University

Abstract

Complex and unstructured environments pose several challenges for traditional rigid robot technologies. Inspired by biological systems, soft robots offer a promising alternative with respect to their rigid counterparts and demonstrate increased resilience and adaptation, resulting in machines that can safely interact with natural environments. Mimicking how biological systems use their soft and dexterous body to interact with and exploit their surroundings entails addressing multiple fundamental challenges related to the design, manufacturing, and control of soft robots. In this talk, I will present our research on developing new actuation technologies via layer-by-layer manufacturing approaches to design collapsible actuators capable of exploiting their surroundings to enable a robot to perform a task. I will also introduce our work on methods to embed control and computational capabilities onboard soft robots to increase their autonomy, specifically focusing on our efforts towards enabling electronic control of multi-DoF fluidic soft robots. Finally, I will present our work on the application of soft robotic technologies in minimally invasive surgery. I will discuss various applications, including atraumatic manipulation of large abdominal organs and accurate and effective manipulation of delicate structures inside the beating heart.

Biography

Tom Ranzani received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa, Italy. He did his Ph.D. at the BioRobotics Institute of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies. In 2014, he joined the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as a postdoctoral fellow. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and in the Division of Materials Science and Engineering at Boston University, where he established the Morphable Biorobotics Lab in 2018. In 2020 he was awarded the NIH Trailblazer Award for New and Early Stage Investigators. His research focuses on soft and bioinspired robotics with applications ranging from underwater exploration to surgical and wearable devices. He is interested in expanding the potential of soft robots across different scales to develop novel reconfigurable soft- bodied robots capable of operating in environments where traditional robots cannot.

Host: Ryan Sochol

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