News & Events
Soft Robotic Surface Manipulator
Release time:January 18, 2018

Topic: Soft Robotic Surface Manipulator

Speaker: Prof. Weiliang Peter Xu, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Date: Thursday, Jan 18 at 3:00 PM

Venue: A306, New Main Building

Bio of the Speaker:

Prof. Weiliang Peter Xu received the B.E. degree in manufacturing engineering and the M.E. degree in mechanical engineering from Southeast University, Nanjing, China, in 1982 and 1985, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in mechatronics and robotics from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beijing, China, in 1988. He joined The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, on February 1, 2011, as Chair in Mechatronics Engineering. Before this appointment, he was a Professor of mechatronics (2007–2010), Associate Professor (2005–2006), and Senior Lecturer (1999–2004) in the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Massey University, New Zealand. Prior to coming to New Zealand, he was with the City University of Hong Kong (1993–1998), the University of Stuttgart, Germany (1990–1992), and Southeast University, China (1988–1989).

Prof. Xu is a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand. He has been serving as an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics (since 2003), was an Associate Editor of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine (2008–2009) and an Editor for the International Journal of Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications (2005–2010). He received the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship (Germany) in 1990, the Fung Ying Tung Young Academics Research Award (China) in 1996, the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Research Fellowship (South Korea) in 2006, and the Japan Society of the Promotion of Science Research Fellowship (Japan) in 2010.

Prof. Xu is the Chair Professor and Director of Mechatronics Engineering Program. He is also Principal Investigator of the New Zealand Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) and Associate Investigator of The Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies (CoRE) and Riddet Institute (CoRE).


There exist industrial needs where a number of objects on a surface must be manipulated simultaneously. Different from using an industrial robot, which manipulates objects in 3D space and interferes with other facilities at work, we proposed and patented a surface manipulator that is soft, made of soft elastomer and has all pneumatically operated actuators embedded beneath the surface. Our first prototype is aimed to manipulate soft, delicate, fragile objects randomly placed on the surface. Its surface manipulation’s principle follows the inverted locomotion of caterpillar and the manipulation surface is made of 2D array of inverted caterpillars. This talk will cover the modular concept, actuator design, modelling and FEA simulation; capability, actuation planning, motion planning and finite state automate; vision system and closed-loop of the manipulation surface; and experimental results. The talk is supported by a number video footage.

Robotic Research Center and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab of Beihang University

High-grade Biomedical Engineering Medical Robotics (MR) Research Center, Beijing