Simplifying fabrication of soft robots

3d-printing-soft-robot-molds

Soft robots are a peculiar wing of technology. They don’t use frames and motors for locomotion, but as the name implies they are made of soft materials. They move by pumping fluid — it could be air or liquid — in and out of bladders that push or pull against the body itself. [Matthew] points out that fabricating soft robots has traditionally been a time-consuming and difficult task. He’s trying to make it easier by 3D printing molds into which soft robots can be cast. This way the parts can be designed in CAD, converted to a mold design, and pushed to a 3D printer.

The object with which he’s been testing the technique functions like an octopus tentacle. The image at the bottom left illustrates the internal structure, with rings separated to allow the appendage to flex, and tubes running parallel to the appendage to provide the force needed to bend it. Above that image you can see one of the molds that was used, and the final product is on the right. The video after the break shows a demonstration of this bending left and right as air is pumped in using the bulb of a blood pressure cuff (or Sphygmomanometer for those paying attention).

28 thoughts on “Simplifying fabrication of soft robots

  1. seen this on the front page and I thought ‘will someone make comments about sextoys and stuff?’…. opened the article and saw comments -> damn internets you predictable

    1. I was thinking the same thing, and also thought that someone will comment that they have predicted what the comments here will be.

  2. Laugh all you want… but sex, the desire of it, or the desire to be seen as desirable for it… has launched more technology than pretty much anything else. There is a killing to be made with this technology in the ‘desire’ business.

    1. All that aside… there are lots of other really crazy and interesting things that this tech could do. I don’t wanna blow it off. Construction and Endoscopics are a couple. Imagine being able to thread a ‘snake’ through conduit, pipes or bowels with no real resistance because the device can remember where the bends are and actual use them to propel itself…

      Fluid bends would make for super-fast water-traveling devices too. Now that I’ve started to think seriously about it, the list starts to grow.

      1. That’s what I’ve been thinking. This method is really promising. I’m hoping that I can get some much more complex shapes without having to completely restructure the existing designs. I’m pretty confident a little walking robot isn’t too far off.

      1. I would go as far as to say that war is just an extension of the “my stick is bigger and better” kind of thing.
        Think of “This is my rifle, this is my gun, this one’s for fighting, this one’s for fun.”
        It also goes further than that, war is normally about territorial conquest, economic conquest, and/or security. Each of these things has traditionally been about sex, reproduction, and keeping “your kind” on top.
        I think it’s safe to say that war technology can easily be traced back to sex, as well.

    2. But really, If you started one business that sold automatic rubber tentacles, and another that sold soft touch robotic actuators, which one do you think would do better?
      For robotics, soft bots are interesting and as of yet have limited uses, but everyone needs a battery operated hentai nightmare.

  3. giggit-e.
    Looks like basic pneumatic hand pump driving it. Bet it’d be super creepy (read hot) with some proportional hydraulic (probably water) control.

  4. I think it would significantly help make it look like more of a tentacle than a penis if air was pumped in smoothly rather than with a hand pump.

  5. I made some air muscles a few years back that used air pressure and solenoid valves. It was really too bulky to be used for anything mobile though. I wish I could get my hands on some cheap mini solenoid valves.

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