Mechanical engineering professor, graduate student design flexible robotic arm with medical, industrial applications | news


In cooperation with the Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance, LSU’s mechanical engineering department is designing a flexible robotic arm with applications in both medical and industrial settings.

Mechanical engineering assistant professor Hunter Gilbert is spearhead the creation of the robot, which is completed to be 1 meters long and when it resembles a tentacle-like arm.

The project was chosen out of four other projects after being presented to members of the engineering industry.

The robot, made up of several bent tubes nested together and configured into a snake-like shape, resembles other small robots used predominantly for minimally invasive surgical procedures.

“The questions that we are asking and trying to answer with this research project this year are different than any other questions that we have been asked about these robots before,” Gilbert said.

This style of robot has not been used in industrial applications, but Gilbert’s design, upon completion, will have the ability to inspect and predict failures in industrial applications. For example, the robot can be used to inspect for corrosion in areas that would be too labor-intensive for humans.

According to Gilbert, the robot can easily access the interior of a machine or underneath insulation in pipelines to identify and predict rust that could damage structures.

Structural deterioration and mechanical issues will likely be the primary job of the robot, Gilbert said.

Currently, human workers are doing the tasks that the robot will eventually perform. The implementation of a robot in equipment inspection would prove to be cost effective and efficient, Gilbert said.

Shahior Ahmed, a mechanical engineering graduate student, is involved with designing and assembling the robot’s prototype. He is still working on manufacturing, creating and assembling other parts of the arm.

The $50,000 funding for the project comes from the Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance, a joint project between LSU, Louisiana Tech and the National Science Foundation’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Center. According to their website, they seek to, “transition industry-driven research into commercial applications.”

Michael Khonsari, the project’s director for several statewide grants for projects like this, said that the National Science Foundation has brought in over $100 million in grants.

“We are in a position to help them as a trusted source for truly transformative insight,” Khonsari said. He is also a mechanical engineering professor at LSU.

According to Khonsari, the partnership with the National Science Foundation is a step toward LSU’s reputation and establishing the university as a center in the National Science Foundation’s network.

“We have really created what I call an innovation driven ecosystem,” Khonsari said.

The Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance’s funding of projects, like Gilbert’s flexible robot, provides opportunities for students and faculty alike. Khonsari said about 30% of students who work with the faculty and industry on projects like this end up being recruited in similar industries in the future.

According to Khonsari, projects funded by the Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance and collaboration on projects similar to the robotic arm, create opportunities for the university and industry professionals.

“Having the project at LSU means that we are leading and innovating in the area of ​​robotics for structural integrity applications,” Gilbert said. “In my opinion, it is a good thing both for the university and the community that we are doing this research here at LSU.”

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