Traditional robots are often moved with electric motors that are rigid, heavy, and can potentially be dangerous. Current robotic studies are shifting more and more toward soft robotics that are safe for human-robot interaction. Unlike traditional robots that are moved with motors, soft robots are moved with artificial muscles that are inherently compliant or soft. This is because artificial muscles are compliant or soft materials that can change their shapes under external stimuli such as temperature and voltage. They have shown strong potential in various applications, such as robot prosthetics, exoskeletons, and medical catheters. EXO Tech pursues new and developing soft robotic technology in the hopes of providing exoskeletal solutions to today’s problems.
Among soft robotic technologies, super coiled polymer [SCP] actuators exhibit many desirable muscle properties – they have demonstrated large actuation range, significant mechanical power, and are compliant and lightweight. Exo Tech is currently utilizing SCP technology in the development of an exoskeletal assistive glove. This device will be light, strong, and able to assist the user in everyday hand function. Further the glove will demonstrate the capabilities of SCP actuators.
Proof of Concept
Exo Tech plans to market the SCP assistive glove as a medical device, specifically looking at aiding those with arthritis. This is because the current products on the market either lack functionality, or utilize a technology that is inferior to SCP actuators. Some examples are Nuada’s glove which can only lock the hand, not assist it, and WYSS Institute’s pneumatic assistive glove that is impractical because of the large compressor that must be carried with the design.
To better prepare the product to compete in this market, EXO Tech has partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno’s Smart Robotics Lab directed by Dr.Jun Zhang. Specifically Dr. Zhang is experienced with SCP actuators making him a key person in the development of the glove.
Testing and Results
Meet the Team
Aaron Wiese is from Granite Bay, California. Aaron has been a part of numerous engineering design projects and has earned his Eagle Scout award. Aaron is currently working on several projects for the UNR Smart Robotics Lab, including an actuator fabricator which required both programing and part design skills to complete. Aaron’s goal is to finish his bachelor degree in mechanical engineering which he expects to have finished in spring of 2018. Following his graduation, Aaron plans to continue his research at the UNR Smart Robotics Lab.
Anthony Johnson is from Las Vegas, Nevada. Growing up, Anthony’s father owned a company which was a forerunner in engineering American V8 and Subaru motors into various models of Porsches. Being around vehicles early on fueled his passion for learning how things function and has brought him to where he is today. One of the most challenging engineering projects Anthony has been a part of while attending the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) was a magnet, “mine” seeking robot. In order to set his project apart from fellow competitors, he designed and built a telescoping arm that was capable of rotating nearly three-hundred degrees around the robot, while telescoping linearly approximately five inches. Another project, outside of school, that Anthony is proud of, consists of a “bead winder”. The customer was a jewelry and bead distributor and required a device that was capable of winding long strands of beads efficiently and affordably. Anthony began by designing the system by using analytical methods to ensure the device would not fail under the countless cycles and stress. The final product consisted of a smooth shaft, inserted into a set screw bearing, and bolted onto a steel frame. This was connected to an electric drill, which was operated by a foot petal. The device was a success and was much cheaper, stronger, and safer than any previous products used by the client. Through his studies at UNR, Anthony has developed a deep interest in control systems and looks forward to advancing his knowledge in this field to help him solve problems in his future career. Currently, as a senior at UNR, Anthony is working part-time doing computer aided design drafting, and after graduation, his goals are to work within the automotive industry, ideally working on vehicle crash safety.
Christopher Mullen is a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Mullen was raised in San Jose, California in a family of engineers. Mechanical engineering was natural choice when pursuing a higher education. Going into engineering was initially difficult due to Mullen’s previous trouble with math and science. Through effort and interest in engineering Mullen has developed proficiency with basic engineering principles with a greater interest in dynamic systems, fluid dynamics, and control systems. The most challenging engineering project Mullen has worked on was designing an autonomous robot to clear a simulated minesweeper game for an Intro to Mechanical Engineering course. Through this project Mullen gained an interest in autonomous systems and robotics. Mullen has taken additional classes in computer science and has developed skills with microcontrollers and other programing languages, such as Python, outside of the curriculum. Currently, Mullen is working on building a drone with some autonomous capabilities. This personal project has required the application of engineering skills and problem solving techniques. Mullen is eager to be working with Team Exo-Tech and the opportunity to gain hands on experience with soft robotics technology. Mullen intends to develop his interest in robotics and autonomous systems into a career.
Silvio P. Reggiardo is from Cameron Park, California. Silvio is a senior mechanical engineering student attending University of Nevada, Reno. The most challenging engineering project Silvio worked on was a bridge project in a Statics class. Beyond simply picking a truss design that should have been strong, Silvio applied analytical techniques to optimize a truss design by leaving as many parameters in variable form as possible, creating a set of equations based on Statics principles, and optimizing the variables with the help of computer programming. The project was a success. Silvio in general developed the skills of solving for variables of systems and programming throughout his schooling. Outside of school, Silvio is proud of working to get a non-starting, partially disassembled, Model A to a limited driving condition. Silvio’s goal until graduation is to maintain a GPA sufficient to be accepted into graduate school, as an option. Silvio intends to work as an engineer upon graduation. The particulars of employment will beworked out based on aspects such as market factors, competency, and other circumstances.
Clayton Frieders is a senior mechanical engineering student. Being from Livermore, California and having family who have worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has influenced Clayton’s decision to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. The most challenging engineering project that he has been involved with was designing a hovercraft for his Engineering 101 class. This project tested his abilities to conceptualize designs, apply mathematics, and problem solve. During Clayton’s semesters at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), he has developed and improved upon many engineering skills. These skills range from applying math and science to creating concepts and implementing designs. An accomplishment that he is proud of is designing and constructing solar powered water pumps for wells on his grandparents country property. Using skills that he has learned through engineering classes at UNR, he was able to calculate the required wattage needed to power each pump for a certain amount of time. Additionally, he designed battery packs for the solar panels to charge while the pumps were not being used. The pump could then run off the battery packs at anytime, day or night. These designs allow for the pumps to draw water from an underground well that then will be given to livestock. His current goals are to help complete a prototype of an assistive glove for Team Exo Tech. After graduation he would like to apply his engineering skills to either the automotive, outdoor, or aerospace industry.