This approach is therefore subject to a paradigm shift that not only creates individual components such as sensors or printed circuit boards, but also almost complete mechatronic systems made of soft, flexible materials such as silicones. Such systems have the great advantage that their structures have a high degree of flexibility and adaptability due to the flexibility of the material. In direct contact with humans, these systems therefore exhibit a certain degree of “inherent safety”, which reduces the risk of injury in the interaction between humans and robots.
The immanent paradigm shift of soft robotics - away from hard and towards soft materials - holds considerable potential, but at the same time poses special challenges for developers: While previous generations of robot systems only differ from their predecessors in terms of evolutionary development, the emergence of soft robotics represents a revolution over all previous solutions.
The SPP 2100 “Soft Material Robotic Systems” has set itself the task of actively meeting the challenges of this paradigm shift and developing novel approaches for the development of soft robots. The main disciplines involved are engineering, computer science, materials science, natural sciences and biomechanics.
Recently, we successfully carried out our fourth General Assembly of the Priority Programme SPP2100 in the beautiful city of Dresden, Germany. The four days assembly with more than 45 researchers, including professors, postdocs, and PhD candidates from 13 institutes from all over Germany, exchanged information on their individual project results aiming to leverage soft material robotic systems.
Organized by Jan Peters and Ditzia Susana García Morales, the full-day workshop Soft Robots for Humanity at this year's International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Kyoto was an exciting event that attracted many participants in-person and online. The workshop aimed to identify current applications for soft robotic systems and highlight the opportunities for soft robots shaping a symbiotic society and a better world of tomorrow.
The second funding period will focus on specifying the advantages of soft material systems, with particular emphasis on intrinsic material compliance and additional built-in functionality such as sensing, actuation and transformation capabilities. This highly interdisciplinary programmme seeks to improve the possibilities of technology transfer and the exchange of mutual knowledge.
The Soft Material Robotics Systems SPP2100 priority program funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) is sponsoring five young researchers (who are not authors of accepted IROS 2022 papers) from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in the Soft Robots for Humanity workshop at the IEEE/RSJ 2022 International Conference on Robots and Intelligent Systems (IROS 2022) on October 23 - 27, 2022 in Kyoto, Japan.