Advanced Robotics Technologies Seminar

Date: 18 Apr 2011 - 18 Apr 2011

Venue: Auditorium, Level 3, Tower Block, SIMTech, 71 Nanyang Drive

Co-organiser : SWISSNEX Singapore


Robotics has played an important role in automation especially in industrial automation. In the past few decades, we have experienced significant advances in robotics such as sensing and computing technologies. However, the mechanical designs and motion control schemes of industrial robots have largely remained the same since their introduction in the mid 20th century. As a result, the industry robots are still widely employed as positioning arms for repetitive and non-interactive operations. The industrial needs of the 21st century, such as high dexterity, adaptability and compliance to overcome the increased complexity and uncertainties in manufacturing, cannot be met by these traditional robot design and control. A new revolution in industrial robot design and control is long overdue and is essential to meet these new challenges.

In this seminar, the concept of "Soft Robotics" is first introduced, which is characterized by biologically inspired robot designs, capitalizing on nature’s designs to improve robot dexterity, adaptability and compliance. Subsequently, the design of cable-driven dexterous robots, inspired by tendons and muscles, is presented. This design methodology allows high load-to-weight ratios while improving robot dexterity. Finally, the concept of robot force control as a key enabling capability for enhancing industrial manipulator’s dexterity and compliance is introduced.



9.00am Registration

9.25 am Welcome Address

9.30am    Soft Robotics : Self-organisation, Embodiment and Biological Inspiration by Prof Rolf Pfeifer, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract :

Robotics researchers increasingly agree that ideas from biology and self organization can strongly benefit the design of autonomous robots. Biological organisms have evolved to perform and survive in a world characterized by rapid changes, high uncertainty, indefinite richness, and limited availability of information. The term "Soft Robotics" designates a new generation of robots capable of functioning in the real world by capitalising on "soft" designs at various levels: surface (skin), movement mechanisms (muscles, tendons), and interaction with other agents (smooth, friendly interaction). Industrial robots, in contrast, operate in highly controlled environments with no or very little uncertainty. Although many challenges remain, concepts from biologically inspired and soft robotics will eventually enable

researchers to engineer machines for the real world that possess at least some of the desirable properties of biological organisms, such as adaptivity, robustness, versatility, and agility.

In this talk, I will discuss the concept of "Soft Robotics" and follow up on its far reaching implications, in particular how the physical dynamics of an embodied agent is directly coupled to the information processing of its brain (or the brain dynamics).

It is also argued that this coupling is fundamental for learning and for the development of cognition in general. All points will be illustrated with many examples from robotics, biology, and psychology.

I will also argue that the global economic situation is changing and that companies in Europe and the US are thinking about re-insourcing some of their production they had outsourced to cheap-labor regions, back to their home countries. In order to be competitive, a substantially higher level of automation must be achieved. A key technology in this will be "soft robotics" which, before too long, might lead to a new industrial revolution.


10.30am Coffee break and Networking


11.00am Modular Cable-driven Robotic Arms for Dexterous Manipulation by Dr Yang Guilin, SIMTech

Abstract :

Conventional industrial robots have limited maneuverability and dexterity to perform tasks over complex structures and confined spaces, such as those in-service inspection, maintenance, and repair tasks in aerospace, oil and gas, and marine industries. Hence, our major research objective is to develop redundant and flexible robotic arms to effectively perform various engineering service tasks that require high maneuverability and dexterity. To simplify the development efforts, a modular design concept has been employed. Four types of joint modules have been proposed as the basic building blocks of the modular robotic arms, i.e., the 1-DOF revolute joint module, the 2-DOF universal joint module, the 2-DOF joint module with a flexible backbone, and the 3-DOF spherical joint module. With an inventory of such joint modules, various robotic arm configurations can be rapidly constructed to cater for different task requirements. To achieve high load-to-weight ratios, all these joint modules are driven by cables with all the cable-driving units mounted onto the base of the robotic arm. As a result, such a robotic arm has a light-weight mechanical structure allowing intrinsically-safe manipulation in the human environment. However, due to the unilateral driving property of cables, the existing analysis and design methods developed for conventional serial or parallel robotic arms are not readily applicable, which makes the design of the modular cable-driven robotic arm a challenging task. In this presentation, the major critical design analysis issues pertaining to the modular cable-driven robotic arms, such as the displacement, force-closure, stiffness, and workspace analyses, will be discussed. Simulation as well real examples will be presented to illustrate the effectiveness of proposed design analysis approach.


11.30am Robot Force Control for Industrial Applications by Dr Lim Chee Wang, SIMTech

Abstract :

Industrial manipulators are widely used for conventional applications such as handling, welding and painting etc for decades. With improved precision, increased dexterity and drastic reduction of cost in current industrial manipulators, it brings a good opportunity for industrial manipulators to penetrate in non-conventional applications such as wide range of contact operations (light weight material removal, heavy machining, human-robot interaction etc). Force control is one of the key enabling capabilities to enhance industrial manipulator’s dexterity for these niche applications. Although robotic force control theories have been developed since 1960s’, force controlled industrial manipulators has yet to be seen in many real industrial applications. Over the years, SIMTech has established in-depth know-how of robotic force control through many research and industrial projects. This presentation presents some of the recent force control research achievements from SIMTech, as well as activities in the practical implementation of such technologies in industry projects.


12.00pm  End


About Presenters

Rolf Pfeifer received his Master’s Degree in physics and mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. He spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University and at Yale University in the US. Since 1987, he has been a professor of computer science at the Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Having worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at the Free University

of Brussels, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, the Beijing Open Laboratory for Cognitive Science, and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, he was elected "21st Century COE Professor, Information Science and Technology" at the University of Tokyo. In 2009 he was also a visiting professor at the Suola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, and he was appointed "Fellow of the School of Engineering" at the University of Tokyo. His research interests are in the areas of embodiment, biorobotics, artificial evolution and morphogenesis, modular robotics, self-assembly and educational technology. He is the author of the book "Understanding Intelligence", MIT Press, 1999 (with C. Scheier) and "How the body shapes the way we think: a new view of intelligence," 2007 (with Josh Bongard) MIT Press (popular science style). Next project: "The Shanghai Lectures 1.1 (building on Shanghai 1.0 in 2009)", a global mixed-reality lecture series on embodied intelligence, broadcast this time from the University of Zurich in Switzerland in cooperation with universities from around the globe (fall term 2011, starting end of

September 2011).


Dr Yang Guilin received the B. Eng Degree and M. Eng Degree from Jilin University of Technology (now Jilin University), China, in 1985 and 1988 respectively, and Ph.D. degree from Nanyang Technological University in 1999. From 1988 to 1995, he had been with the School of Mechanical Engineering, Shijiazhuang Railway Institute, China, as a lecturer, a division head, and then the vice dean of the school. Since 1998, he has been with Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), Singapore. Currently, he is a Research Scientist and the Manager of the Mechanics Group. His research interests include modeling, analysis, and design of - precision mechanisms/machines, parallel-kinematics manipulators, modular robots, robotic automaton systems, and electromagnetic actuators. He has published over one hundred and sixty technical papers in referred journals and conference proceedings and filed eight patents. He is now a member of Robotics Technical Committee of IFToMM, the committee chair of Singapore IEEE Robotics and Automation Chapter, the Technical Editor of IEEE/ASME Transaction on Mechatronics, and the Editorial Board Member of Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering.


Dr Lim Chee Wang is an Associate Research Scientist with SIMTech. He received his BEng in Mechanical Engineering from UMIST in 1998 and MEng from NUS in 2001. His Master research project is in Motion Planning of Mobile Robot. He obtained his EngD from Cranfield University in 2010, under a scholarship scheme from SIMTech. His Doctorate research topic is Dynamic Modelling and Analysis of Aerostatic Bearing Guideways. He has led several in-house and collaborative projects in the area of dynamic-based force control of mobile manipulator. Chee Wang has led a team in developing an omni-directional powered caster wheel mobile robot (whereby a patent was filed in the design of a decoupled powered caster wheel module). He currently manages several robotic industrial projects funded by Rolls-Royce and one funded by SERC Aerospace Programme. Chee Wang is currently the theme leader for the Robotic Automation Theme and Deputy Group Manager for Mechatronics Group.

For more information and to register for additional lectures by Prof Rolf Pfeifer, please click here.

Who Should Attend

Senior Management and R&D Managers and Engineers working the areas related to robotics and automation.



This is a non-chargeable seminar. To reserve a seat, please register online. 


Contact Us

For enquiries on seminar content: 

Dr Tao Pey Yuan, Email:

For general enquiries: 

Ms Samantha Sukiyama Chan, Email: