The term ‘soft robotics’ is one that has been growing in popularity. It refers to the types of robots that are made with the kind of materials that enable them to have flexibility, unlike other kinds of robots. Essentially therefore, there is not much difference between soft robots and flexible robots. All soft robots are flexible, however there are some flexible robots which are not made using ‘soft’ material.
Flexibility mostly entails movement, but movement can be limited by constrictions. Flexible robots can have their movements constrained by the metallic material that is used to manufacture them. This is why scientists came up with alternative materials to create robots, in order to literally expand their movement capabilities.
Advantages of soft robots
One of the most widely used material for the creation of soft robots is liquid silicone rubber. Not only is it able to resist mold and bacteria, but it also has a high durability, and is arguably the most flexible material used for the creation of soft robots. Liquid silicone rubber happens to be very versatile, as it can be molded and be used to create just about any shape. In addition, scientists are able to have circuits as well as hardware directly embedded into it.
One of the best things about soft robots is that they are nothing like their metallic counterparts, from the way in which they are made, to the way that they operate. For starters, building them is more cheap, and they also weigh so much less. Because of their flexibility, they are also more durable. Soft robots are able to easily handle navigation tasks, since articulation comes easily for them.
Use of flexible robots
Having flexible non-soft robots is also very important though. This is because when it comes to functions that include manipulation tasks, having somewhat rigid parts is necessary because force is needed in order to lift objects. Due to the nature of materials that are used to make soft robots, exerting the kind of force that is needed would prove to be difficult.
In addition, they would also not be able to perform a very precise manipulation task, because it is not possible to precisely control them and this is due to the degrees of freedom as well as the limited sensor integration. Therefore, the best way to go about it would be to ultimately find the balance between softness and rigidity, because having the robot being completely one thing, rigid or soft, would mean that both kinds would be limited in some areas.
Need for rigid robots
We cannot deny the fact that the stationary metallic robot which was only able to complete a particular task in heavy duty industries was what defined what the whole field of robotics was all about. And even though the way that robots are being manufactured continues to evolve, some of the functions that require the use of robots do not change. This means therefore, that some robots like the industrial robot cannot be done away with.
However, incorporating flexibility to the existing robots is something that should be done because it enhances productivity. For example a flexible robot arm works more efficiently, and can complete more tasks as compared to an ordinary robot arm.
Nonetheless, the need for development of automation in the way of soft robots is highly needed, as the needs of society also evolve with time. The consumer market has a lot to do with dictating the direction in which automation takes. In addition, cost of production is also a big factor.
In the end, flexible and soft robots are highly advantageous, because they make more economic sense in the long run. Depending on the task at hand, incorporation might be needed, or you might need to just use either soft robots, or hard but flexible robots. Whatever the case might be, everything is done more efficiently with the use of robots, and the creation of soft robots opens a door of so many possibilities.