Soft Robotics, Silicone Rubber, And Amazing Castings


Most of the robotics projects we see around here are heavy, metallic machines that move with exacting precision with steppers, servos, motors, and electronics. [Matthew] is another breed of roboticist, and created a quadruped robot with no hard moving parts.

[Matthew] calls his creation the Glaucus, after the blue sea slug Glaucus atlanticus. Inside this silicone rubber blob are a series of voids, allowing compressed air to expand the legs, gently inching Glaucus across a table under manual or automatic control.

Even though no one seems to do it, making a few molds for casting on a 3D printer is actually pretty easy. [Matthew] is taking this technique to an extreme, though: First, a mold for the interior pressure bladders are printed, then a positive of this print made in silicone rubber. These silicone molds – four of them, for the left, right, top and bottom – are then filled with wax, and the wax parts reassembled inside the final ‘body’ mold. It’s an amazing amount of work to make just one of these soft robots, but once the molds and masters are made, [Matthew] can pop out a soft robot every few hours or so.

There’s a lot more info on Glaucus over on the official site for the build, and a somewhat simpler ‘compressed air and silicone rubber’ tentacle [Matthew] built showing off the mechanics. Video below.



  1. Hirudinea says:

    Cool, just like Kif Kroker (or a penis I suppose). It seems to me if this was printed larger you could make it autonomous by installing an air pump and controller to operate it.

  2. Mike Szczys says:

    I have no basis to intuitively judge if this could carry the weight of a compressor and something to fuel/power it. Anyone?

    • scorinth says:

      As an ME undergrad: Nope. These rubber bodies have to compromise between strength and flexibility. We haven’t yet developed anything that can move around its own power plant, because every rubber body that’s flexible enough to move convincingly is too squishy to support significant weight. I think the next thing is integrating textiles into the structure, but I can’t say much more, lest my research plans get “scooped”.

      • scorinth says:

        Well, hell, I guess it’s no great mystery that all of the big structural rubber components we ever see in daily life: Tires, hoses, etc. Are flexible composites, with fabric embedded in the rubber. There’s a reason for that. I’m not going to pretend it’s some great secret, though I’m *really* surprised the people already in the “soft robotics” crowd haven’t done too much with it.

  3. As always: after the marketing department had used all the money and time available on the video, the r&d have had just enough left to develop a walking hottie.

  4. Daniel says:

    I’m not a fan of negative comments here on HAD but come on. Robot? It’s a balloon!

    • Geeks Anon says:

      robot: (noun) a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, esp. one programmable by a computer.

      I think this qualifies. Toss in a few solenoids and the movement is now computer controlled. Moving forward without any “moving” parts is pretty complex by my definition.

  5. vonskippy says:

    I’d move like that too if I had two compressed air tubes stuck up my backside.

  6. MIT also made a ‘soft’ robotic fish, but this quadruped is brand new to me!

  7. Harvie.CZ says:

    Remembers me of these toys:

    It’s fake spider with inflatable rolled tongue-like thingy that get’s unrolled when you press baloon attached by thin hose, so it jumps and you can “scare” people :-)

  8. Galane says:
  9. Tom the Brat says:

    I think it has an aneurysm.

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