Actuators – As robots are being increasingly used in domains other than manufacturing the traditional hydraulic, pneumatic and electric actuators are not always suitable. Salford has been developing new advanced actuators which provide improved performance, such as high power to weight ratio and variable stiffness.
Biomimetics/biologically inspired robotics – This theme involves looking to nature to see how it solves problems and then attempting to use this inspiration to develop novel robotic systems. We have developed a number of biologically inspired robots most notably walking robots based on both canine and primate anatomy.
Soft robotics – Traditional robots are typically metallic and as a result are heavy and rigid, soft robots, as the name suggests, are formed from much softer and more flexible materials. This means soft robots interact with the environment in a very different manner to traditional robots, they can deform when in contact with obstacles allowing them to perform tasks and work in environments previously unsuited to robots. The ability to deform and absorb impact also make soft robots inherently safe when operating near people.
End effectors – Many products, particularly items of food cannot be grasped with traditional end effectors. We have extensive experience in developing novel end effectors for grasping difficult to hand products.
Dexterous hands – Robots are multipurpose tools, however, traditional robot grippers tend to only be able to handle a single or small range of products. If the robot is retasked the end effector often needs to be changed. This is costly and time consuming and as a result there is a drive to develop multipurpose grippers. We have extensive experience develop dexterous grippers based on the human hand.
Automation for the food industry – The food industry uses less automation than other manufacturing sectors. The main reasons for this are the fact that food products are typically deformable and they have high levels of natural variation. This means traditional automation is not suitable. We have worked with more than 50 food companies to explore the use of automation and have developed many novel automated systems.
Physical human robot interaction (pHRI) – In the future robots will operate close to and in collaboration with people. Existing robots are unable to achieve this in safe manner and we are developing both hardware and software systems to allow safe physical human robot interaction.
Rehabilitation robotics – With an aging population and pressures on health budgets robotics is becoming increasingly important in healthcare. We are developing exoskeletons and other robotics devices to assist with rehabilitation.