[Jonathan Grizou] is experimenting with robot designs, and recently stumbled upon a neat method for making soft robots. While his first prototype, a starfish like robot, doesn’t exactly “whelm” a person with it’s grace and agility, it proves the concept. Video after the break.
In this robot the frame is soft and the motor provides most of the rigidity for the structure. The soft parts of the frame have hardpoints embedded into them for mounting the motors or joining sections together. The sections are made with 3D printed molds. The molds hold the 3D printed hard points in place. Silicone is poured into the mold and left to cure overnight. The part is then demolded and is ready for use.
While the initial robot is a bit floppy, the technique promises some interesting avenues of development. For example, different durometers of silicone could provide a frame that acts as an omnidirectional shock absorber. Electronics could easily be embedded into the mix; lights, sensors, etc.
In the end it’s a surprisingly easy technique that’s worth keeping in the mental toolbox.