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School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Modeling, Motion, and Medical Robotics Laboratory (M3 Robotics Lab)

Welcome to the M3 Robotics Lab

Compliance is an intrinsic aspect of nearly all biological systems. However, until recently, traditional robotics has focused more on rigid structures with discrete numbers of links and actuators (whether in series or parallel). More recently, soft robotics has become a popular area of research as it provides a level of safety for human/robot interaction that rigid systems cannot provide. However, there are many situations where robotic systems need the ability to switch between being highly compliant and offering rigidity as they interact with their environment (including human operators). In the effort to develop tunably compliant mechanisms and robotics systems, the M3 Robotics Lab is focused on:

  • High degrees of *: Estimation and control for systems where there are high degrees of freedom, high degrees of actuation or underactuation, and/or high degrees of sensor information.
  • Tunably compliant mechanism: Using smart materials to actively control mechanism compliance, often coupled with traditional robotic actuation schemes.
  • Applications in medical robotics: The goal of many medical devices is to deftly navigate to a location within the body and then interact with tissues at the target location. Travel to the treatment site requires dexterity and compliance, while interactions at the target site require higher levels of rigidity. Medical robotics provides an ideal testbed for validating the previous two principles.

We take an approach of design, model, estimation, and control, where we focus on both analytical and theoretical understanding as well as experimental validation and demonstration. While the primary focus of the research in high degree of freedom systems with tunable compliance is in the area of medical robotics and biomedical systems, these same principles have the potential for employ in manufacturing scenarios, space robotics, and home robotics.

The M3 Robotics Lab is directed by Prof. John Swensen, and is part of a growing group of robotics researchers and students at Washington State University.

  • “Towards Water-jet Steerable Needles” is accepted as an oral presentation at BioRob 2018

    We are now at a place that proved that this new idea in steerable needles works. The first paper on the new area of waterjet steerable needles is going to be published soon. The paper will be presented as oral presentation in IEEE International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics (BioRob 2018) on Aug. 2018 in Netherlands.

    A summary of this paper:

    Water-jet technology has been used extensively for decades industrially for many applications including mining, plastic, … » More …

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  • “Fracture-Directed Steerable Needles” is published in Journal of Medical Robotics Research

    A new paper from our lab research team entitled “Fracture-Directed Steerable Needles” is published in Journal of Medical Robotics Research.

    Here is a summary of the paper:

    Steerable needles hold the promise of improving the accuracy of both therapies and biopsies as they are able to steer to a target location around obstructions, correct for disturbances, and account for movement of internal organs. However, their ability to make late-insertion corrections has always been limited by the lower bound on the attainable radius … » More …

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  • M3 robotics lab showcases research at 2018 Research Expo

    M3 robotics lab participated in annual 2018 Research Expo held by Washington State University. At this Expo people presented their research and judges graded them based on some rubric such as novelty of research, the quality of presentation, poster format, and the importance of research. 2 researchers will be awarded with scholarship in each category.

    We presented our ongoing research on Water-jet Steerable needles. Water-jet technology has been used in industry for a long time for different applications. In recent years, … » More …

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  • The Daily Evergreen interviewed m3 robotics lab team members on their research

    On Jan., 2018, The Daily Evergreen, WSU newspaper, interviewed m3 robotics lab team members on the ongoing research in our lab. Prof. Swesnen talked about a new approach using waterjet, allowing to direct the needle exactly where it wants to go. This method also eliminates resistance, making it easier to press the needle in further. Prof. Swensen also added that our lab is at a point where we’ve proved water-jet steerable needles work. He also talked about other ongoing research in our lab namely fracture-directed steerable needles, and … » More …

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  • High school students visit M3 robotics lab

    On Wednesday morning, M3 robotics lab was host to visiting high school students. The aim of this visit was to grab the attention of the kids to areas such as Engineering and Robotics ad encourage them to think about engineering as their future majors and later as careers.

    Professor Swensen started off with asking who is actually … » More …

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  • Heon’s paper is accepted at the ASME 2016 Conference

    Heon’s paper entitled “Design and experimentation of a tunably-compliant robotic finger using low melting point metals” is accepted at the ASME 2016 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems (SMASIS 2016) held on September 28-30, 2016, Stowe, VT, USA.
    Hi paper is about fabrication and testing of a tunably-compliant tendon-driven finger implemented through the geometric design of a skeleton made of the low-melting point Field’s metal encased in a silicone rubber. The initial prototype consists of a skeleton comprised of two rods of the metal, with heating elements in thermal contact with the metal at various points along its length, embedded … » More …

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  • New journal paper is going to be published soon.

    A journal paper is going to be published, it presents a new needle insertion system which consist of preshaped nitinol needles and tubes. Also, it will introduce a method about how to control the insertion curvature inside tissue.

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  • New 3D Printer

    Lulzbot Taz 6A brand new Lulzbot TAZ 6 3D printer has arrived at the lab!

    Rapid prototyping is a key part of research here at the M3 Robotics Lab; our experiments often require small, custom parts designed for very specific purposes. Having a 3D printer in the lab gives us the flexibility to modify designs and print new parts on our own whenever we need them.

    The TAZ 6 features a large print volume (nearly the volume of a soccer ball), automatic bed leveling, and automatic tool head cleaning. The TAZ 6 is … » More …

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  • Brian Laferriere joins M3 Robotics Lab Team

    Brian Laferriere is pursuing a MS degree in Mechanical Engineering at WSU and has joined the M3 Robotics Lab Team as an graduate research assistant.

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  • Carson Schlect joins M3 Robotics Lab Team

    Carson Schlect is pursuing a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering at WSU and has joined the M3 Robotics Lab Team as an undergraduate research assistant.

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