Fluid-Driven Soft Robots

The workshop has been a success. Thanks to all the speakers, the attendees and the sponsors! It was great to share technical insights and perspectives on the field. Looking forward to meet all of you again in a next edition.

Workshop at RoboSoft2018, 24 April 2018, Livorno (Italy)

This workshop aims to be a dialogue about fluid-driven soft robots between researchers involved in fluid-(soft)structure interaction and researchers working on soft actuators. We identified two main topics respectively divided in focused sub-themes: (1) scalability and (2) application domains. Scientists who contributed to the development of novel actuators or to the study of the physics entailed with them will have the chance to take part in a highly focused and application-driven discussion on the challenges and future development of this fascinating and promising field.


Koichi Suzumori, Tokyo Tech
Francesco Giorgio-Serchi, University of Southampton
Benny Gamus, Technion
Herbert Shea, EPFL
Vito Cacucciolo, EPFL
Naoki Hosoya, Shibaura Institute of Technology
P. Valdivia y Alvarado, Singapore University of Technology
Tommaso Ranzani, Boston University

Stephen Licht, University of Rhode Island

Josh Bishop-Moser, ElastoRobotics
Shingo Maeda, Shibaura Institute of Technology
Robert Shepherd, Cornell University

Koichi Suzumori

Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

Koichi Suzumori received the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Yokohama National University in 1990. He had worked for Toshiba R&D Center from 1984 to 2001, and also worked for Micromachine Center, Tokyo from 1999 to 2001.

He had been a Professor of Division of Industrial Innovation Sciences, Okayama University from 2001 to 2014.

He has been a Professor of Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2014. He established a venture company, s-muscle Co., Ltd. in 2016, which puts soft thin artificial muscles into practical uses.

Miniature to gigantic fluid-driven soft robots

I will talk about the scalability of fluid-driven soft robots along with my experiences, which include 1) rubber surface improvements by tiny structures in micron-meter size, 2) comparison of small/big FMAs(flexible microactuators), 3) bundled muscles consisting  of thin McKibben muscles, and 4) a 20-m long robot arm.

I will review them from the viewpoints of 1) scale effect and 2) their fabrication processes and will conclude with one of my answer to this topic “no scaling-up but numbering-up.”


  1. The births of practical application of soft robots are very important to make soft robotics field much more active and attractive in the coming decade. I believe that fluid-driven soft robotics can be the first pioneer to realize practical application. What’s the most promising target in the near future and who will commercialize it?
  2. Fluid-driving is very useful from the practical point of view at current, but for young students and researchers it might sometimes seem like old and low-tech. I believe novel but practical technical ideas should be introduced into fluid-driven actuators. What can be new research topics?

Francesco Giorgio-Serchi

University of Southampton, UK

Dr. Francesco Giorgio-Serchi is currently appointed as a Lloyds Register Foundation Research Fellow at the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, within the Fluid-Structure-Interaction group. Previously he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research Center on Sea Technologies and Marine Robotics in Livorno, Italy. He holds an MSc from the University of Pisa in Marine Technologies and a PhD in Computational Fluid Dynamics from the Centre for CFD of the University of Leeds, UK. His work entails the coupled fluid-solid interaction of deformable bodies with the purpose of designing bioinspired aquatic vehicles with enhanced manoeuvrability and efficiency.

Fluid inertial effects in soft hydraulic actuators

Soft hydraulic actuators lend themselves to a variety of applications where compliant interaction and continuous bending capabilities are important. Recently, these kind of actuators are also being developed to perform highly dynamic movements characterised by explosive movement; this requires the actuator subject the internal fluid to abrupt and intense accelerations. In such conditions, the dynamics of the system is regulated by the interplay between the elastic restoring forces of the structure and the inertial effects of the internal fluid. We will present and discuss existing analytic modeling approaches to the treatment of this kind of problem. This will lead us to introduce a simplified closed form solution which enables to estimate internal inertial effects in the case of a fluid interacting with varying degree of geometrical confinement, thus enabling to predict the unsteady hydraulic power needed to control a soft hydraulic actuator of general morphology.

Benny Gamus

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

Benny Gamus received his M.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, in 2013, studying the hybrid dynamics of a bi-pedal walking robot. He served as a UAV system officer in the IAF. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology), studying the fluid-structure interaction, dynamics and control of soft robotic locomotion.

Interaction Between Inertia, Viscosity, and Elasticity in Soft Robotic Actuator With Fluidic Network

We present an approach for modeling the fluid-structure interaction between a viscous flow in an embedded slender serpentine channel and the dynamic response of the soft robotic actuator. This allows for closed-form solutions of the system’s time-response and frequency response. We also present and model the application of viscous-peeling as an actuation mechanism, simplifying the fabrication process by eliminating the need for internal cavities. The theoretical results are illustrated by experiments.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of various fluids in soft fluidic actuators (e.g., air compared to viscous and viscid liquids)? Both from energetic point of view, such as compression, and the actuator’s viscous-dynamic behavior.

Herbert Shea

École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

Herbert Shea is a full professor at the EPFL in Switzerland, leading a group developing elastomer-based actuators and sensors for applications in haptic displays, soft robotics, and as tools for mechanobiology. After a PhD in 1997 from Harvard University, Herb spent 2 years a post-doc at IBM Research, then joined Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs, becoming the technical manager of the Microsystems Technology group.  In 2004 Herb joined the EPFL as a faculty member.

Towards Smart Elastomer-based Actuators

We address the control of complex motion with soft actuators by combining different actuation principles, such as Dielectric Elastomer Actuators with electroadhesion, or a matrix of Shape Memory Polymers with compliant heaters and a single pressure supply. We provide examples of compliant grippers and flexible haptic displays.


  1. When will soft robots finally be smart?
  2. How soft should a soft robot be?

Vito Cacucciolo

École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

Vito Cacucciolo is a Post-Doc scientist in the Soft Transducers Lab at EPFL. His research topics include soft fluidic transducers, soft robotics, advanced manufacturing and mathematical modelling of nonlinear systems. He is interested in embedding intelligence in materials and structures and in designing soft technologies that could have a positive impact on society.

He obtained a double-degree MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Politecnico di Bari (Italy) and New York University (USA) in 2013 and a PhD in Soft Robotics from the BioRoboitcs Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy) in 2017.

Soft Pressure Transducers

Traditional pumps and compressors are bulky and include many mechanical parts. Such components do not comply with the trend of simplification and integration characteristic of soft robotics and limit the development of soft fluidic actuators and their use in applications that require compactness, such as smart wearables and mobile robots. In this talk I will present alternative mechanisms for the generation of pressure energy that are suitable for miniaturization and integration in soft devices.


  1. When we combine a pressurized fluid and a structure with nonlinear response, varying  the pressure corrensponds to force, position or impedance actuation?

Naoki Hosoya

Shibaura Institute of Technology, Japan

I received my B.S., M.S. and Dr. Eng. Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo, Japan, in 1996, 1999 and 2002, respectively. I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, School of Engineering, Shibaura Institute of Technology.

My research interests are vibration and acoustic tests, laser-induced plasmas, damage detection, and modal analysis. Recently, I am studying assessment of fruit quality using vibrational response.

Measurements on soft materials

I would like to talk about the measurement of dynamical properties of soft materials using optical devices. My presentation has two main topics as follows: (1) high spatial and temporal resolution measurement of mechanical properties in hydrogels using the Schlieren method, and (2) damage detection in transparent materials using high-speed polarization-imaging camera. Furthermore, I would like to present laser excitation method without contact to vibrate soft materials.


  1. Using optical measurement device, we may visualize elastic waves in soft material. However, the elastic waves have to identify the type of wave. How do we identify it? Is there analytical solution to calculate a propagation velocity of soft materials such as hydrogels?
  2. Soft materials have  generally high damping and do not respond at high-speed. Is it true?

Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado

Singapore University of Technology, Singapore

Dr. Valdivia y Alvarado is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Product Development Pillar at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and a Research Affiliate in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. He received his Ph.D., M.Sc., and B.Sc. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. His research interests include: soft robotics, bio-inspired design, underwater locomotion & sensing, and additive multi-material manufacturing processes. He was recognized with an MIT’s Technology Review 2012 TR35 Young Innovator Award for South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand for his contributions to novel vehicles for long-term exploration of harsh environments.

Bio-inspired soft whisker-like sensors

Perception of environment changes is essential
for any robot in order to successfully navigate through its surroundings. In this talk I will present our work on several generations of bio-inspired underwater soft sensors. These sensors are capable of two important functional requirements; they can minimize unwanted fluid disturbances and, in addition, they are capable of detecting small perturbations in the flow to provide relevant hydrodynamic feedback. Our group has also developed new fabrication approaches to make these sensors more compatible with soft robot bodies.


  1. I would love to hear/discuss about fabrication and modeling/design.

Tommaso Ranzani

Boston University, USA

Tommaso Ranzani is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. His research focuses on exploring different technologies and developing manufacturing paradigms to design and fabricate innovative robotic systems and tools. His main research area is soft robotics, he has explored soft robotic technologies to develop novel manipulators, which integrate design principles from biological systems for performing advanced procedures in MIS. He is interested in expanding the potential of soft robots across different scales to develop novel reconfigurable soft bodied robots.

Prof. Ranzani received a Bachelor’s and Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa, Italy . He did his Ph.D. at the BioRobotics Institute of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies under the supervision of Prof. Arianna Menciassi on soft mechatronic devices for MIS, working in the framework of the STIFF-FLOP European project. In 2014, he joined as a postdoctoral fellow the Wyss Institute for Biologically inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson school of Engineering and Applied Sciences where he worked in the Harvard Microrobotics Lab (Prof. Robert J. Wood) and the Harvard Biodesign Lab (Prof. Conor Walsh). In his postdoctoral research, he explored advanced manufacturing technologies for novel medical devices. His research focused on soft meso- and micro- scale reconfigurable robotic devices integrating micro fluidic capabilities and exploiting layer-by-layer manufacturing processes.

Soft Biomedical Robots Across Scales

Soft robotic technologies are generating a paradigm shift on how we design robots and tools able to accomplish tasks in the real world. In this talk, I will highlight the impact of soft robotics in the particular challenging scenario of the human body, discussing how soft robots could improve current technologies. I will also focus on manufacturing challenges in the field, highlighting limitations and opportunities of current meso- and micro- scale fabrication processes

Stephen Licht

University of Rhode Island, USA

Dr. Licht is the director of the Robotics Laboratory for Complex Underwater Environments (R-CUE) at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Licht received his Ph.D. in Oceanographic and Mechanical Engineering in 2008 from the MIT/WHOI Joint program, where he created ‘Finnegan the RoboTurtle’. Prior to joining the URI faculty, he was a Senior Research Scientist with the Maritime Research group at iRobot, and Senior Robotics Engineer with Vecna Robotics. During his time in the robotics industry, Dr. Licht designed, simulated, and field tested model-based control systems for underwater vehicles and ground robots driven by bladders, fins, flippers, propellers, legs, wheels, and tracks.

Soft fluidic actuators at extremes pressures

We experimentally demonstrate (a) that the holding strength of universal jamming grippers increases as a function of the jamming pressure to greater than three atmospheres, and (b) that jamming grippers can be operated in the deep sea in ambient pressures exceeding one hundred atmospheres, where such high jamming pressures can be readily achieved.

Josh Bishop-Moser

ElastoRobotics, USA

Josh Bishop-Moser is currently Principal Researcher at MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight, a US federal think tank focused on advanced manufacturing, and President of ElastoRobotics, a start-up focused on pneumatic soft robotics. His research has focused on the design and modeling of fiber-reinforced soft actuators, as well as applications in the medical and automotive sectors. He received his Ph.D. and M.S.E. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Soft Robots for the Real World: Modeling and Control

Realizing nearly any application of soft robotics requires modeling and control. From design synthesis to feed-forward controls to efficient feedback loops, accurate models and appropriate control schemes are necessary. Soft robots present a unique challenge in their degree of non-linearity of materials, structures, and kinetics; this presentation will highlight the advancements and remaining challenges in this area.


  1. What practical applications will be enabled by soft robots?
  2. What is the biggest challenge holding back soft robotics?

Shingo Maeda

Shibaura Institute of Technology, Japan

Shingo Maeda received his Dr. Eng. degrees in applied physics from Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. He has been an Associate Professor with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Shibaura Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan. He was a visiting professor at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Prof. Cecilia Laschi) from 2015 to 2016. His main research topics include smart gels, soft actuators, and chemo-mechanical system.

Chemo-mechanical fluidic actuators

Chains of physicochemical phenomena can be considered as an algorithm since they perform information processing. I have previously proposed “Chemical actuators and robots” using a chemical reaction network. Soft materials are useful media for physicochemical phenomena, since they are easy to deform in response to stimuli. I believe that coupling of soft materials and physicochemical phenomena can lead to a new field in Soft robotics.


  1. How do we use chemo-mechanical actuators in practical applications?
  2. What are “artificial muscles”? or What “artificial muscles” should be?

Rob Shepherd

Cornell University, USA

Rob Shepherd is an assistant professor at Cornell University’s Organic Robotics Lab (ORL), which focuses on using synthetic adaptation of natural physiology to improve machine function and autonomy. Our research spans three primary areas: bioinspired robotics, haptic interfaces, soft sensors and displays, and advanced manufacturing. We use soft materials, mechanical design, and novel fabrication methods to replicate sensory organs such as dermal papillae, replicate organs that rely on actuation such as the heart, and to power soft actuators and robots. He is the recent recipient of an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award. His work has been featured in popular media outlets such as the BBC, Discovery Channel, and PBS’s NOVA science documentary series.

Elastomeric Materials for Autonomic Force Transmission, Optoelectronic Sensing, and Embodied Energy Systems

This talk will present multidisciplinary work from material composites and robotics. We have created new types of actuators, sensors, displays, and additive manufacturing techniques for soft robots and haptic interfaces. For example, we now use stretchable optical waveguides as sensors for high accuracy, repeatability, and material compatibility with soft actuators. For displaying information, we have created stretchable, elastomeric light emitting displays as well as texture morphing skins for soft robots. We have created a new type of soft actuator based on molding of foams, new chemical routes for stereolithography printing of silicone and hydrogel elastomer based soft robots, and implemented deep learning in stretchable membranes for interpreting touch. All of these technologies depend on the iterative and complex feedback between material and mechanical design.  I will describe this process, what is the present state of the art, and future opportunities for science in the space of additive manufacturing of elastomeric robots.


  1. Many times we claim soft robots are safe, but if they apply forces high enough to perform laborious tasks, will they not, by necessity, become unsafe?


If you want to be part of this exciting workshop, register following instructions on this page specifing: WP1 Fluid-driven soft robots: a collaborative workshop.

Contact us for any additional information.


Share your latest research results through a short video relevant to the workshop topics! Vidos will be projected during the discussion panels.

Duration: 1-3 minutes; Size: less than 50 Mb; Format: MP4 (.mp4). Codecs: Do not use special codecs in order to provide as much portability across platforms as possible. Structure: The video must include at the beginning a video cover with the title, authors and affiliation and the credits at the end.

You can submit your videos using the form below. Remember that it is mandatory to for at least one of the authors to register for the workshop in order to contribute with a video.


With the support of

Contact us to sponsor this event and advertise your company to the worldwide top research groups working on soft fluidic technologies.

Sponsorship options:

1. Workshop apero (logos on buffet tables) – € 800
2. Voice acknowledgement at workshop, logo on workshop web banner – € 500
3. Voice acknowledgement at workshop, logo on workshop web banner, logo on RoboSoft2018 conference web banner – € 1000


Salone delle Feste @ Hotel Palazzo


Dr. Vito Cacucciolo, Scientist, Soft Transducers Lab (LMTS), École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Dr. Francesco Giorgio Serchi, Research fellow. Fluid Structure Interaction Group, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.

Prof. Shingo Maeda, Head of Smart Materials Lab, Shibaura Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan.


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