VUB self-healing robot research gets funding boost


A collaboration among international partners will see the further development of self-healing robots for industrial, laboratory and even household use

Costly repairs to be ‘a thing of the past’

Vrij Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is helping to develop the next generation of self-healing robots. The robots will be able to detect when they are damaged and heal themselves.

The €3 million funding is being provided in the framework of the EU’s Future & Emerging Technologies programme. The three-year project will see VUB working with several research and development partners, including the University of Cambridge and Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix.

Soft robots are employed in the industrial and research sectors in various ways. Soft robotics deals with creating the robots out of flexible materials in order to limit damage to products and potential injury to workers and researchers who work alongside them.

Safe and sustainable

They are, however, vulnerable to cracks or tears by sharp objects. Repairs can be expensive and time-consuming. The Shero (self-healing robotics) project will develop technologies that allow soft robots to self-heal this damage.

“Over the past few years, we have already taken the first steps in creating self-healing materials for robots,” says professor Bram Vanderborght of VUB’s mechanical engineering department. “With this research we will be able to ensure that robots that are used in our working environment are safer, but also more sustainable. Due to the self-repair mechanism of this new kind of robot, complex, costly repairs may be a thing of the past.”

According to Vanderborght, robots will in the future not be limited to factories and laboratories, but will be found in households, too. Soft robotics, he says, is the only option to ensure people’s safety in integrating robots into their everyday lives.

Photo courtesy Soft Robots Inc