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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 23, 2023
  2. In modern industrial manufacturing processes, robotic manipulators are routinely used in the assembly, packaging, and material handling operations. During production, changing end-of-arm tooling is frequently necessary for process flexibility and reuse of robotic resources. In conventional operation, a tool changer is sometimes employed to load and unload end-effectors, however, the robot must be manually taught to locate the tool changers by operators via a teach pendant. During tool change teaching, the operator takes considerable effort and time to align the master and tool side of the coupler by adjusting the motion speed of the robotic arm and observing the alignment from different viewpoints. In this paper, a custom robotic system, the NeXus, was programmed to locate and change tools automatically via an RGB-D camera. The NeXus was configured as a multi-robot system for multiple tasks including assembly, bonding, and 3D printing of sensor arrays, solar cells, and microrobot prototypes. Thus, different tools are employed by an industrial robotic arm to position grippers, printers, and other types of end-effectors in the workspace. To improve the precision and cycle-time of the robotic tool change, we mounted an eye-in-hand RGB-D camera and employed visual servoing to automate the tool change process. We thenmore »compared the teaching time of the tool location using this system and compared the cycle time with those of 6 human operators in the manual mode. We concluded that the tool location time in automated mode, on average, more than two times lower than the expert human operators.« less
  3. Recent advancements in additive manufacturing such as Direct Write Inkjet printing introduced novel tools that allow controlled and precise deposition of fluid in nano-liter volumes, enabling fabrication of multiscale structures with submillimeter dimensions. Applications include fabrication of flexible electronics, sensors, and assembly of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). Critical challenges remain in the control of fluid deposition parameters during Inkjet printing to meet specific dimensional footprints at the microscale necessary for the assembly process of microscale structures. In this paper we characterize an adhesive deposition printing process with a piezo-electric dispenser of nano-liter volumes. Applications include the controlled delivery of high viscosity Ultraviolet (UV) and thermal curable adhesives for the assembly of the MEMS structures. We applied the Taguchi Design of Experiment (DOE) method to determine an optimal set of process parameters required to minimize the size of adhesive printed features on a silicon substrate with good reliability and repeatability of the deposition process. Experimental results demonstrate repeatable deposition of UV adhesive features with 150 μm diameter on the silicon substrate. Based on the observed wettability effect of adhesive printed onto different substrates we propose a solution for further reduction of the deposit-substrate contact area for microassembly optimization.
  4. Advanced applications for human-robot interaction require perception of physical touch in a manner that imitates the human tactile perception. Feedback generated from tactile sensor arrays can be used to control the interaction of a robot with their environment and other humans. In this paper, we present our efforts to fabricate piezoresistive organic polymer sensor arrays using PEDOT: PSS or poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrenesulfonate). Sensors are realized as strain-gauges on Kapton substrates with thermal and electrical response characteristics to human touch. In this paper, we detail fabrication processes associated with a Gold etching technique combined with a wet lift-off photolithographic process to implement a circular tree designed sensor microstructure in our cleanroom. The testing of this microstructure is done on a load testing apparatus facilitated by an integrated circuit design. Furthermore, a lamination process is employed to compensate for temperature drift while measuring pressure for double-sided sensor substrates. Experiments carried out to evaluate the performance of the fabricated structure, indicates 100% sensor yields with the updated technique implemented.
  5. The sAFAM is a novel mm-size microrobot built using MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) technology. It consists of a monolithically fabricated microrobotic arm assembled onto four in-plane actuators, capable of moving along four degrees of freedom, including translational movement in X and Y axes as well as pitch and yaw. In this paper, several design modifications were proposed to increase movement precision, stability, and controllability to the sAFAM tip. An interface is developed to assist a human operator accurately position the microrobot tip during nano-object handling. A Python-based graphical user interface (GUI) was programmed to make it intuitive for an operator to use and obtain required tip precision under a microscope. Experimental results demonstrate the functionality of the proposed control solution, and the tip motion resolution using microscope images of the microrobot tip under 20x magnification during operation. The hardware and software requirements for the proposed experimental setup and control platform are discussed in detail.
  6. In this paper, we propose a novel online algorithm for motion similarity measurements during human-robot interaction (HRI). Specifically, we formulate a Segment-based Online Dynamic Time Warping (SODTW) algorithm that can be used for understanding of repeated and cyclic human motions, in the context of rehabilitation or social interaction. The algorithm can estimate both the human-robot motion similarity and the time delay to initiate motion and combine these values as a metric to adaptively select appropriate robot imitation repertoires. We validated the algorithm offline by post-processing experimental data collected from a cohort of 55 subjects during imitation episodes with our social robot Zeno. Furthermore, we implemented the algorithm online on Zeno and collected further experimental results with 13 human subjects. These results show that the algorithm can reveal important features of human movement including the quality of motion and human reaction time to robot stimuli. Moreover, the robot can adapt to appropriate human motion speeds based on similarity measurements calculated using this algorithm, enabling future adaptive rehabilitation interventions for conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  7. Fabrics and fibrous materials offer a soft, porous, and flexible substrate for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) packaging in breathable, wearable formats that allow airflow. Device-on-fiber systems require developments in the field of E-Textiles including smart fibers, functional fiber intersections, textile circuit routing, and alignment methods that adapt to irregular materials. In this paper, we demonstrate a MEMS-on-fabric layout workflow that obtains fiber intersection locations from high-resolution fabric images. We implement an image processing algorithm to drive the MEMS layout software, creating an individualized MEMS “gripper” layout designed to grasp fibers on a specific fabric substrate during a wafer-to-fabric parallel transfer step. The efficiency of the algorithm in terms of a number of intersections identified on the complete image is analyzed. The specifications of the MEMS layout design such as the length of the MEMS gripper, spatial distribution, and orientation are derivable from the MATLAB routine implemented on the image. Furthermore, the alignment procedure, tolerance, and hardware setup for the alignment method of the framed sample fabric to the wafer processed using the custom gripper layout are discussed along with the challenges of the release of MEMS devices from the Si substrate to the fabric substrate.
  8. Industrial robots, as mature and high-efficient equipment, have been applied to various fields, such as vehicle manufacturing, product packaging, painting, welding, and medical surgery. Most industrial robots are only operating in their own workspace, in other words, they are floor-mounted at the fixed locations. Just some industrial robots are wall-mounted on one linear rail based on the applications. Sometimes, industrial robots are ceiling-mounted on an X-Y gantry to perform upside-down manipulation tasks. The main objective of this paper is to describe the NeXus, a custom robotic system that has been designed for precision microsystem integration tasks with such a gantry. The system tasks include assembly, bonding, and 3D printing of sensor arrays, solar cells, and microrobotic prototypes. The NeXus consists of a custom designed frame, providing structural rigidity, a large overhead X-Y gantry carrying a 6 degrees of freedom industrial robot, and several other precision positioners and processes. We focus here on the design and precision evaluation of the overhead ceiling-mounted industrial robot of NeXus and its supporting frame. We first simulated the behavior of the frame using Finite Element Analysis (FEA), then experimentally evaluated the pose repeatability of the robot end-effector using three different types of sensors. Results verifymore »that the performance objectives of the design are achieved.« less
  9. Abstract Microassembly systems utilizing precision robotics have long been used for realizing three-dimensional microstructures such as microsystems and microrobots. Prior to assembly, microscale components are fabricated using micro-electromechanical-system (MEMS) technology. The microassembly system then directs a microgripper through a series of automated or human-controlled pick-and-place operations. In this paper, we describe a novel custom microassembly system, named NEXUS, that can be used to prototype MEMS microrobots. The NEXUS integrates multi-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) precision positioners, microscope computer vision, and microscale process tools such as a microgripper and vacuum tip. A semi-autonomous human–machine interface (HMI) was programmed to allow the operator to interact with the microassembly system. The NEXUS human–machine interface includes multiple functions, such as positioning, target detection, visual servoing, and inspection. The microassembly system's HMI was used by operators to assemble various three-dimensional microrobots such as the Solarpede, a novel light-powered stick-and-slip mobile microcrawler. Experimental results are reported in this paper to evaluate the system's semi-autonomous capabilities in terms of assembly rate and yield and compare them to purely teleoperated assembly performance. Results show that the semi-automated capabilities of the microassembly system's HMI offer a more consistent assembly rate of microrobot components and are less reliant on the operator's experience andmore »skill.« less