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Abstract: Soft robots are constructed from compliant materials, resulting in machines that can safely interact with the natural environments. Given their inherent compliance, they are particularly suitable for exploring and interacting with unstructured environments, and manipulating soft, delicate, and irregular objects. These properties make soft robots particularly promising for biomedical applications, such as wearable and medical devices, given the highly compliant and delicate structures of the body. On the other hand, the compliance of soft robots limits their ability to effectively apply forces on objects whose stiffness is comparable to the one of the robot itself, leading to the challenge of matching the compliance of soft devices with the environment or objects they will encounter. During this talk, I will describe progress in soft robotics and its potential for revolutionizing biomedical devices. I will introduce a soft manipulator inspired by the structure and the manipulation capabilities of the octopus tentacle, which is able to selectively tune its stiffness to address the challenge of impedance matching. I will also introduce the potential of soft robotics at the millimeter and micrometer scales, addressing the challenge of manufacturing complex meso-scale three-dimensional soft structures using two-dimensional processes involving laser machining, lamination, and soft lithography. These manufacturing processes could pave the way for soft microrobots as well as a new class of deployable, small, and safe medical devices.


Biosketch: Tommaso Ranzani received the Master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy, in 2010 and the Ph.D. degree in BioRobotics in 2014 at the BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pontedera, Italy. During his Ph.D., he explored soft robotic technologies to develop a bioinspired manipulator, which integrates design principles from biological systems for performing advanced procedures in minimally invasive surgery. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory and at the Harvard Biodesign Laboratory working on different manufacturing paradigms, materials, and actuation technologies to develop novel mm-scale robotic tools and structures able to overcome current challenges in medicine and surgery. His research interests include soft and bioinspired robotics, medical robotics and advanced manufacturing.


Date(s) - Apr 27, 2017
11:00 am - 12:00 pm


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