IEEE Women in Engineering

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Sensitive and Robust Tactile Pressure Sensors for Robotic Grippers

September 23, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Current robotic sensing is mainly visual, which is useful up until the point of contact. To understand how an object is being gripped, tactile feedback is needed. Human grasp is gentle yet firm, with tactile touch feedback. Ras Labs makes Synthetic Muscle™, a class of electroactive polymer (EAP) based materials and actuators that sense pressure from gentle touch to high impact, controllably contract and expand at low voltage (battery levels), and attenuate force. The development of this technology towards sensing provides fingertip-like sensors that are able to detect very light pressures down to 0.01 N and even 0.005 N, with a wide pressure range over 50 N. By using these soft yet robust FingerTip™ sensors, immediate feedback is generated at the first point of contact. Because these elastomeric pads provide a soft compliant interface, the first point of contact does not apply excessive force, allowing the object to be gently handled and the force applied to the object to be controlled. The sensor also detects changes in pressure location on its surface, i.e., directional glide provided real time feedback, making it possible to detect and prevent slippage. We discuss uses and applications for these sensors and grippers, the machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) used for object identification and determination of good grip (position, grip force, no slip, no wobble) for pick-and-place and other applications. Lenore Rasmussen, PhD, is the CTO and Founder of Ras Labs, and she is also an adjunct professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where she created and teaches the graduate course “Smart Materials and Actuators (and Biomimicry)” through the Robotics Engineering Department. Her corporate experience includes Johnson & Johnson. While in grad school at Purdue, a relative suffered a traumatic farm injury, and she investigated prostheses, but was disappointed with what was available in the marketplace. Her drive to advance prosthetic technology led her to invent Synthetic Muscle™ – electroactive polymers (EAPs) that contract and expand at low voltages and sense pressure, which garnered attention in the robotics community. Dr. Rasmussen is a recognized global leader in the EAP industry with multiple patents and publications, presentations at global conferences, including the SPIE Electroactive Polymers Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) Conferences, Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) conferences and world congresses, and robotics meetings and consortia, and multi-media communication, including NASA TV. She holds a PhD in Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry specialty, from Virginia Tech, MS in Biology, Biophysics Specialty, from Purdue University, and double major Bachelor of Science degrees in biochemistry and chemistry from Virginia Tech. Calum Briggs, MS, Robotics Engineer, in addition to robotics engineering, is our hardware-software integrator and a creative force at Ras Labs. He holds a MS in Robotics Engineering from WPI and double major Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Robotics Engineering from WPI. Virtual:


September 23, 2021
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category: