What is soft technology people
A world without robots is hardly conceivable today. Even if they rarely appear directly in most people's lives, industrial robots, for example, have long been an essential part of our lives due to the assembly of smartphones or cars. But they are also increasingly used in other areas of life such as medicine and care or as service robots in the household or in restaurants. When it comes to direct interaction with people, however, they have one major disadvantage - their hard structure, which can lead to injury. This is where soft robots come in, i.e. robots that partially or completely consist of flexible materials and are based on biological systems. They are intended to revolutionize the way humans and machines live together in the long term.
In the future, soft robots could e.g. They can be used, for example, for search and rescue missions in inaccessible terrain, for support in the care of the elderly, for handling particularly sensitive objects or in rehabilitation, e.g. for shaping limbs. But soft robots are not only advantageous when it comes to interacting with people. Due to their flexibility, they could also be used as diagnostic and maintenance robots in narrow tunnel shafts, tubes or in space travel. Ideally, such robots are not only compliant, but also able to self-decompose in response to a signal. To do this, they must be made up of compounds that can be broken down relatively easily by physical (e.g. temperature), chemical (e.g. acid) or biological influences (e.g. microorganisms) and which are physiologically or ecologically harmless Decomposition products. This would make them ideally suited to taking on tasks in environmental monitoring (e.g. for detecting heavy metals in water). For industry, hybrid systems for collision-tolerant robots, which consist of both soft and rigid elements, are of particular interest in order to facilitate cooperation between workers and machines.
Research on soft robots is a very interdisciplinary field that uses expertise from computer science, materials science, bionics and mechanical engineering. The aim here is to make all technical systems such as sensors and actuators, control computers, energy supply and communication devices as flexible as possible. Smart materials such as shape memory materials or dielectric elastomers are to be used as artificial muscles, for flexible organic electronics and sensors, and for energy supply.
The first important development steps towards soft robots have now been completed and a constant further development of the technology can be expected. Demonstration objects that show the current design possibilities of soft robots are e.g. X-shaped crawling robots, caterpillar-like soft robots, fish-like and stingray-like robots, hand-like structures and grippers with mostly three to six fingers. A major breakthrough in the mass market is still pending, but it offers great economic potential.
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