Focus |

Soft robotics

Soft robots are made from soft, elastic materials and offer unique opportunities in areas in which conventional rigid robots are not viable; for example, for drug delivery, non-invasive surgical procedures, as assistive devices, prostheses or artificial organs. The emerging field of soft robotics draws together materials scientists, mechanical and biomedical engineers, and researchers of intelligent systems. The inspiration for the design of many soft robotic systems comes from nature. This focus issue features contributions from leaders in key areas of this multi-disciplinary field with articles about bioinspired microrobots, 3D printing and origami folding of soft robots, actuation and control strategies, the use of hydrogels for soft robots and biomedical applications. Moreover, challenges, design concepts and milestones on the road to clinical translation are discussed.

Content

  • Nature Reviews Materials | Editorial

    Materials and technologies used to make soft robots that can safely interact with humans are avidly explored. A wealth of applications are in reach for soft robots but a number of challenges remain.

  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    3D printing can be used to directly fabricate soft robots. This Review discusses advances in 3D printing technologies and soft materials for the fabrication of soft robotic systems with sophisticated capabilities, such as 3D movement and responsiveness to the environment.

    • T. J. Wallin
    • , J. Pikul
    •  &  R. F. Shepherd
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Inspired by biological systems, engineers are exploring origami folding with smart material actuation to enable intrinsically actuated designs with complex functionalities and easy fabrication. This Review highlights recent advances in the design, fabrication and control of these origami robots.

    • Daniela Rus
    •  &  Michael T. Tolley
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Microrobots are envisioned to revolutionize microsurgery and targeted drug delivery. Their design, operation, locomotion and interaction with the environment are inspired by microorganisms. This Review highlights soft, responsive and active materials for the development of (semi-)autonomous microrobots.

    • Stefano Palagi
    •  &  Peer Fischer
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Hydrogel ionotronics employ hydrogels as stretchable, transparent, ionic conductors for the development of ionotronic devices, such as artificial muscles, skins and axons. This Review discusses the mechanical properties and chemistry of materials for hydrogel ionotronic devices and highlights possible applications.

    • Canhui Yang
    •  &  Zhigang Suo
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Soft robots have broad applications in medicine. In this Review, biomedical applications, including surgery, drug delivery, prostheses, wearable devices and artificial organs, are discussed in the context of materials, actuation strategies and challenges.

    • Matteo Cianchetti
    • , Cecilia Laschi
    • , Arianna Menciassi
    •  &  Paolo Dario