Picking up a raw egg, a half-filled water balloon, or a playing card is trivial for a child, but a major challenge for a conventional robotic gripper. I will present a compliant gripper capable of all those tasks, combining in a novel way electro-adhesion with Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs). DEAs are stretchable soft transducers that can generate strains of over 200%, can be used for energy harvesting, as sensors, and as lightweight structural elements, making them particularly well-suited for self-powered intelligent deformable machines. I will explain how we design and microfabricate our mm- to cm-scale DEA devices, give examples of our devices for a wide range of applications, and report on our haptic displays for visually-impaired users based on shape memory polymers.
Bio: Dr. Herb Shea holds a PhD (1997) in Physics from Harvard University. After a postdoc at IBM Research, he joined Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, where he became the technical manager of the Microsystems Technology group, responsible for the reliability of optical MEMS products. In 2004 Dr. Shea founded the Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory (LMTS) at the EPFL in Switzerland where he has been an associate professor since 2011. After several years’ developing MEMS propulsion and MEMS sensors for small spacecrafts, Dr. Shea shifted his research focus to elastomer-based actuators and sensors with applications in haptic displays, soft robotics, tunable optics, and as tools for biologists to study cell mechanics. Dr. Shea has published over 70 peer-reviewed papers and given numerous invited and plenary presentations in the fields of MEMS for space, MEMS reliability, and miniaturized dielectric elastomer actuators.