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Fabricademy 2017

week 10 - Soft Robotics

Unlike rigid robots, soft robotics have a soft body and performance characteristics similar to living organism and the human body. Its design are bio-inspired or biomimicry and have several different applications.


  • Level BASIC: Pneumatic wrist brace

  • Level Intermediate: Soft Gripper

  • Level Advanced : Pneumatic, digitally controlled system


I was inspired by the work of the Printflatables presented by our mentor Adriana Cabrera, which uses folds and thermal sealings in a flexible material to shape the air inside it, creating new forms (fig 10.1). 

Based on that principle, I decided to build an inflatable hand, which could also have the grip function of the silicon molded claw presented in the lecture.

There are already projects with this concept, as the pneumatic arm by Otherlab. My goal for this assigment, however is only to achieve the closing movement of the fingers altogether, controlled by arduino, in order to create a grip.




Before the creation of the hand, I started by experimenting by creating a first air-bending finger. 


The sealing of the material can be done by the hot press machine. the idea is to create a sandwich of vinyl for fabrics with baking paper inbetween, which will create the air chamber (fig 10.2). However, controling the sealing with this machine is very difficult if I want to create the foldings in the first layer.


In my first attempt, the finger didn't have the baking paper inside the foldings and they ended up being were sealed entirely, leaving no space for the air to create the bending. In my second attempt, it creates a slight bend shape but unfortunately I placed the bottom layer with the wrong side up and the chamber was not sealed (the shiny side has a plastic layer which won't melt well). I tried one more time but the folding layers were not well bent and were flattened, which also didn't allow the bending. 


fig 11.1 - folding scheme by Printflatables

fig 11.2 - Scheme illustration for the experimentation of sealing with the hot press machine.

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