We made a soft robot!
We call it SoftMod and it is a modular soft robotic system. It was created by three undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students; Petter Wehlin (me), Bryan Duerfeldt, and Isaiah Genece, at Yale University during the fall semester of 2016.
The project was developed as part of the class Mechanical Design: Process and Implementation (MENG 489). The prompt from the instructors to the students was: “Create a classroom kit that can improve the current state of mechatronics education.” In response to this prompt we created a vision about a kit that was innovative, unlike any existing kit on the market, and that gave the students a lot of design flexibility.
With this vision in mind we decided to make a modular soft robotics system. The system was going to consist of several soft pneumatic actuators that could attach to themselves and to a base in a nearly infinite number of possible configurations. We also wanted to include all the necessary pneumatic and electronic components needed to power and control the soft actuators, in order to create a complete mechatronics “lesson plan” for a potential university level class.
The final design consisted of two fiber reinforced soft actuators, a base to attach them to, a pneumatic circuit (access to pressurized air is assumed), and electronics (including an Arduino microcontroller). Our system is not specialized for any specific application, but has rather been developed to be customizable for any application of choice, encouraging potential students to take ownership of their own projects.
I have also posted a manual with more technical depth here: https://yale.box.com/v/softmodtechnicalmanual
Other supporting files can be found here: https://yale.box.com/v/softmod
And here are three videos of it in action:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!