Advancing Kentucky’s Manufacturing Partnerships in Enhanced Robotics and Structures
Kentucky’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (KY NSF EPSCoR), sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is a vital part of a coordinated effort to invest in scientific research for a better quality-of-life and a growing economy for Kentuckians.
KY NSF EPSCoR leverages existing expertise in: (1) materials for printed electronics; (2) sensing; (3) printable fiber formation and 3D structure formation; (4) robotics, and (5) human-technology interactions to create new paradigms in the field of structural electronics and advance the Human-Machine Interface frontier by introducing novel interfaces for electronically-augmented robotics and physical structures. The scientific challenge is to merge 3D printing with the emerging field of printed electronics to revolutionize the capabilities of robotic manufacturing infrastructure, medical assistive robots, prosthetics, and consumer products.
KY NSF EPSCoR works to develop a sustainable research infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth.
Research Thrusts and Workforce Development Initiatives
#1 Develop new sensing modalities designed to be integrated into structural robotic components, along with multi-functional materials required to serve as electronic interconnects and insulators. This research thrust develops the materials and fabrication processes needed to embed electronic function into structural components, and involves developing new materials, device configurations, and structural forms for demonstration of basic logic, sensing, and data processing arising from co-printed electronic and structural elements, along with on-board power generation and storage.
#2 Fully integrate sensing, logic, and communication into structures using 3D printing and related techniques, and develop the necessary general processes to allow these structures to take the wide variety of forms needed for robotic and other systems. This research thrust creates the printing environment and protocols for structurally-integrated electronics, including approaches to interconnecting devices, data input and output.
#3 Explore synthetic biology approaches to yield structural materials with programmable lifetimes, to reduce generation of persistent electronic waste.
#4 Develop enhanced, adaptive software and feedback modes to maximize impact of increased sensing capabilities, and bring collaborative Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) to the level needed for advanced manufacturing and health care applications. This thrust will utilize extensive sensor data from structures made in thrust 1 and 2 to create the next generation of Collaborative Human-Machine Interfaces (CHMIs), broadly defined as the intelligent connection between novel multimodal arrays of sensors monitoring users and the environment, and collaborative control decisions and actions taken by machines to assist their human users.
#5 Test prototype enhanced robotic systems in manufacturing environments. This research thrust tests structurally-embedded electronic systems and controlling software in real-world applications. Testbeds can include co-robotic part manipulation and assembly, manufacturing of MEMS devices, and machine shop and maintenance environments. Feedback from this task will be essential to optimizing and enhancing components from research thrusts 1-4.
#6 Attract, train, and retain a diverse workforce with specific robotics and advanced manufacturing knowledge and skills to meet industry needs and/or continue to higher levels of educational attainment.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 1849213