Article: Hiller J and Lipson H (2012). “Automatic Design and Manufacture of Soft Robots.” Ieee Transactions on Robotics 28(2): 457-466.
Abstract: We present the automated design and manufacture of static and locomotion objects in which functionality is obtained purely by the unconstrained 3-D distribution of materials. Recent advances in multimaterial fabrication techniques enable continuous shapes to be fabricated with unprecedented fidelity unhindered by spatial constraints and homogeneous materials. We address the challenges of exploitation of the freedom of this vast new design space using evolutionary algorithms. We first show a set of cantilever beams automatically designed to deflect in arbitrary static profiles using hard and soft materials. These beams were automatically fabricated, and their physical performance was confirmed within 0.5-7.6% accuracy. We then demonstrate the automatic design of freeform soft robots for forward locomotion using soft volumetrically expanding actuator materials. One robot was fabricated automatically and assembled, and its performance was confirmed with 15% error. We suggest that this approach to design automation opens the door to leveraging the full potential of the freeform multimaterial design space to generate novel mechanisms and deformable robots.