The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | April 28, 2006

Robotics Institute Seminar, April 28, 2006
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Making the Most of Minimalism in Distributed Manipulation

Jonathan Luntz
Assistant Research Scientist
Mechanical Engineering Department

University of Michigan


Time and Place

Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305)
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm


Distributed manipulation involves manipulating objects through many points of contact, or even a continuum of contact.  Typical work in this field involves planar manipulation of an object using distributed traction forces.  This provides great flexibility and power in manipulation for both single and multiple objects, but poses two problems: 1) How to produce the large number of forces required, and 2) How to decide what to do with the huge number of input degrees of freedom.  Much work has been done towards answering each of these questions, although typically in a way which requires a huge number of independently controlled actuators.  This talk focuses both on methods of producing planar force fields which are useful for manipulation and simple to implement in hardware.  The first part describes the use of planar air flow fields for object manipulation which relies on the natural shape of flow fields from a small number of flow generators.  While the shapes of the resulting fields must respect the flow dynamics, a class of useful fields for manipulation can be generated, albeit with multiple equilibria.  Sequences of these fields can bring planar objects to an equilibrium pose without sensors.  The second part of the talk describes the class of quadratic potential fields, with a host of useful properties such as reduced number of equilibria, independence of object shape, and ease of prediction of equilibrium pose under operations such as superposition of fields.  Until recently, however, there was no method, short of an array of independently controlled actuators, to implement these fields.  By examining the divergence properties of quadratic fields, and of the type of planar air flow fields generated in the first part of this talk, a method of producing quadratic fields with simple shaped regions of airflow is developed.  These methods are extended to applications involving the superposition of manipulation fields for more flexible manipulation including manipulating along trajectories. The third part of this talk examines methods of using electric fields through delectrophoretic forces to produce similar fields both in 2-D and 3-D on a near-micro scale.

Speaker Biography

Jonathan Luntz obtained his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1992, and his M.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 and 1999.  He started in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor in 2000, and in 2004 joined the research faculty as an Assistant Research Scientist.  He currently works in the areas of distributed manipulation, cooperative mobility, smart material actuation (particularly with shape memory alloy) and in reconfigurable logic control of combined hardware and software resources in manufacturing systems.

Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Peggy Martin (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.