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Manipulation of Delicate Objects in Robotics and Medicine: A Design Approach


In this work, I explore two facets of manipulation of delicate objects. First I describe the development of a new closed system for differential pressure control of 3D printed soft fluidic actuators. I further explore the quantitative advancements it promises for soft robotics towards a robotics manipulator capable of safely and efficiently manipulating infant’s fingers. Secondly, we present the development of a biometrics system for vaccinations which requires manipulation and imaging of infants’ fingers. The fingerprinting process could highly benefit from automation solutions for infants’ fingerprint platen induced deformation due to contact. The next aspect of my thesis is the experimental approach for iterative testing in technology design. Starting with the volumetric control platform developed to enable accurate iterative testing in laboratory settings for experimental characterization of soft actuators with differential pressure control. In this work, I demonstrated a substantial improvement in achievable blocked force, and a significant increase in actuator workspace when using differential pressure actuation as compared to the use of only pressure or vacuum. The increased workspace allowed the robot to achieve complex tasks towards manipulation of fragile objects. Furthermore, I demonstrate a self-healing capability of the combined system for improved soft robotics robustness. Then I follow with an approach for human-centered design with iterative prototyping where experiments can only be performed in situ with live infant subjects. This separation between the design and experiments yields a very challenging progress evaluation and required a unique design iteration methodology. With the resulted fingerprints images from the two leading devices, I demonstrated a higher reliability for high quality infants’ fingerprints using non-contact imaging over contact in the goal of developing a reliable biometrics identification system of infants for vaccination.

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