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Shape Morphing Robots: From Pattern-to-pattern to Programmable Deformation

Robosoft 2024 workshop

San Diego, CA USA

April 14, 2024


Jue Wang - Purdue University

Prof. Alex Chortos - Purdue University

Prof. Xiaoyue Ni - Duke University

Prof. Feifei Chen - Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Prof. John Rogers - Northwestern University


The advancement of smart materials has paved the way for the significant branch of soft robotics: shape-morphing robots. These robots span scales from micrometers to meters, and their structures and materials are diverse. The ultimate goal of shape morphing robots is transforming into target shapes. This field has evolved into two main mechanisms. The first involves pre-designed structures enabling transformation into a predetermined shape, which can be described as Pattern-to-pattern shape morphing, finding utility in responsive systems, the biological field, and aerospace applications. The second mechanism consists of actuator arrays, which can be described as Programmable shape morphing since one device can morph into various target shapes through the adjustment of control parameters. This flexibility unlocks vast potential in emerging sectors such as haptic devices, Human-User Interfaces (HUI) of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and the fascinating realm of metamaterials. This workshop seeks to illuminate the distinct challenges and research opportunities in both types of mechanisms. Through collaborative discussions, participants will explore research opportunities in design and fabrication methodologies, control theories, cutting-edge applications, and the potential performance metrics for both deformation paradigms. Dive into the transformative world of shape morphing robots and envision the future of adaptable robotic systems. 




Integrating material science and robotics has enabled the burgeoning field of shape morphing robots. Deriving their capabilities from the rapid progress in smart materials, these robots have emerged as key examples of the versatility provided by soft robotics. From minuscule scales of micrometers to grander scales spanning meters, shape morphing robots exhibit a wide range of structures and materials, becoming the poster children for adaptability. Central to their advancement lies a crucial distinction – the pattern-to-pattern shape morphing and the programmable shape morphing.


Pattern-to-pattern shape morphing robots anchor its foundation in fixed, tailored designs. These designs empower robots to transform into specific, predetermined shapes. Such deterministic morphing abilities have found applications in responsive robotic systems, the intricate domain of biology, and the demanding aerospace sector. The foremost challenge lies in developing an inverse design strategy, advancing material innovation, and refining fabrication techniques, all with the goal of aligning real-world applications with the diverse requirements of target shapes.


Programmable shape morphing robots dynamically transition into an array of shapes by tuning the control inputs. Such adaptability has profound implications in fields such as human machine interfaces and adaptive metamaterials. The primary challenge remains in refining the structural design and control methodologies, aiming to realize inverse control of more complex deformations with miniaturized control systems.

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