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Incorporating “Soft Robotics” Into Your Robotics Designs
Incorporating “Soft Robotics” Into Your Robotics Designs

A neat sub-field of robotics is called “soft robotics”. It entails the construction and utilization of hardware that is “soft”. That is, hardware that is flexible, made of pliant material, and safer for human-robot interactions. Think of an octopus arm wrapping itself around its food or a worm wriggling through the dirt. When converted into a mechanical expression, that’s soft robotics.

 

While rigid materials can sometimes emulate soft behaviour, most of the time they can’t. Your standard-fare bot with basic robot parts like wheels and a chassis is likely not equipped with any soft hardware. It’s challenging to incorporate, both due to usability and accessibility.

 

Most consumer uses don’t need soft robotics, and if you can find a use for it, it’s possible that you may not be able to find an affordable part for it. Chances are, you’ll need to seek a custom solution.

 

Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that, without working with a dedicated consumer kit, incorporating soft robotics into your robotics designs is a challenging endeavor meant for enthusiasts who rate themselves as being at least intermediate in the hobby.

 

Don’t take that as discouragement, however. It is a wonderful way of expanding your knowledge of robotics. If you are involved in a robotics-based industry, it may even help you advance your career or revolutionize a work process at your job. Keener awareness of new robot parts is only beneficial to your future, be it for recreational purposes or for employment.

 

Potential Projects Using Soft Robotics

 

The good news about pursuing soft robotics is that some of your robot parts will still be relevant. Your motion controller, for example, will likely be usable due to its small size and its ability to be placed almost anywhere in the robot.

 

Additionally, you don’t need to make the entire robot out of pliant material. You can still have your standard-fare chassis and harder plastic materials while still incorporating soft robotics. If that’s the case, your motion controller will certainly fit and you’ll run into no problems on that front since it’ll be business as usual.

 

One of the simpler methods of incorporating soft robotics is by switching your approach to something you already do. If you have a robot that can “grasp”, it may be useful to see if you could switch its grasper out for something soft. Consider the octopus’s arm mentioned earlier. Each arm is covered in suction cup–like appendages, suitably called “suckers”. Using rubber, could you think of a way to replicate that suction cup effect as a means of grasping and moving objects?

 

Another possible approach you can take is to try and soften your robot’s movement. That is, can you transition its hard wheels into soft wheels? This can help educate you on how to create a robot for different terrains, and it’ll also help you understand a different means of motion. Your pre-existing wheels won’t be useful for this so you’ll need different robot parts—but your motion controller should still be able to get the job done if you can figure out how to adapt your motor.

 

It’s possible, but can you figure it out? Try some things out and be sure to take many pictures to document the process. 

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robot parts, robot parts, motion controller, motion controller, robotics, robotics,

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