Soft materials, New Technology for Customized Manufacturing

Soft robotics was born from the thought of bio-inspired design, which is about learning the concepts of natural organisms and utilizing these concepts in design and fabrication of high performance materials and structures. Soft materials is the platform of soft robotics and is a broad area of study of different ways to create tools and goods from wearable devices, called Iskin sensors, and gloves to soft grippers and weaving structure of materials. Pictures below show different applications of soft materials.

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Soft materials studies are introducing deformable models of furniture and utensils that will bring comfort to users and help with new graphical design. McEvoy and Correll proposed a composite material with permanent geometry and temporarily tunable stiffness. They fabricated a thermal based variable stiffness material, in which users are able to reshape the product via heating elements and thermistors. Fig. 4. shows different applications of thermally shapeable furniture and parts.

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Explained by Wikipedia, “Soft robotics is a sub-field of robotics that deals with non-rigid robots constructed with soft and deformable materials like silicone, plastic, fabric, rubber, or compliant mechanical parts like springs. Soft robots can actively interact with the environment and can undergo large deformations relying on inherent or structural compliance due to their softness and other morphological features”. In a study , a class of soft locomotive robots was introduced, which are made by elastomers. They fabricated a soft robot containing five soft pneumatic actuators. Actuators are embedded between two layers, one is relatively more stretchable (on the top) and the other is the strain-limiting layer (at the bottom); shown in Fig. 5. Here was a very short summary of soft material innovations. What would be the use of soft materials in your manufacturing? Please visit our lab or message me for more information.

Note that pictures of this blog post were adopted from mentioned papers.

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Author: Amin Sabzehzar

MBA student Mechanical Engineer University of Nevada, Reno

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