About 90% of the animal kingdom lacks a stiff backbone, and yet these organisms possess unprecedented strength and functionalities. Towards this, nature cleverly exploits multi-materials and optimum topology/geometry to overcome the trade-off between two seemingly antithetical features: flexibility and load-bearing capacity. This paradigm is known as distributed compliance. My goal is to permeate this paradigm in engineering designs leading to autonomous, multifunctional, and adaptive engineering devices at various length scales, through computational tools and manufacturing solutions. Translating distributed compliance to engineering applications leads to numerous performance ramifications. For example, monolithic compliant systems that rely on elastic deformation alone have wide ranging applications in micro (MEMS actuators) and nanosystems (positioning devices), robotics, orthotics and prosthetics, and product design (eliminating assembly operations). Their single piece construction eliminates friction, wear, enables cost-effective manufacturing and increases precision. In this talk, I will present pragmatic design methodologies: a blend of computational tools, including a metric for distributed compliance, and user-insightful conceptual guidelines that result in practical, manufacturable solutions. Furthermore, I will showcase several novel applications such as a MEMS accelerometer, vision-based force sensor, and a nonlinear spring for an orthotic knee brace that result from these methodologies. An alternate embodiment of distributed compliance involves elastofluidics i.e. a complex interplay of fluids, stretchable surfaces and inextensible fibers to achieve dexterous, adaptive deformation patterns. These are effective building blocks for soft robots that can safely interact with humans and the environment. This talk will focus on exploring an entire design-space of novel elastofluidic actuator configurations and understanding their behavior through reduced order modeling techniques. Furthermore, an automated synthesis methodology to design dexterous, adaptive robots using these actuators will be presented.
Girish Krishnan is a Post-Doctoral Associate with the University of Michigan, Mechanical Engineering. He received his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2011, and his Masters from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India in 2007. His research interests include microsystems, compliant mechanisms, computational design, soft robotics and rehabilitation robotics. Girish’s doctoral work on developing firstprinciples based user-insightful synthesis methodology for compliant systems received the Best Paper Award in ASME-IDETC 2010. His post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan in the emerging area of soft-robotics focused on developing a new class of smart actuators that has the potential to create low-cost automation solutions aimed at promoting manufacturing in the US. He has initiated and maintained successful collaborations with industries in the area of rehabilitation robots and product design. He is also the chief organizer for the annual ASME Students Mechanism and Robot Design Contest.