Soft-biobots is a project exploring the use of bio-sourced, recyclable, bio-degradable, and edible material as fabrication materials of soft robots or inflatable structures.
Guiding inflatable soft structures toward a sustainable and renewable way.
In this project, Agar-Agar, a seaweed-based material, and gelatin, an animal-based material are used. Two different fabrication techniques were also experimented, derived from the traditional molding techniques used in the making of soft-actuators with elastomers, and by the techniques used in fabrication of inflatable shape changing fabrics.
Biodegradable materials made of bio-renewable material represent a particular interest in soft robotics and inflatable shape-changing fields. Bioplastics are investigated as promising materials in this project for the sustainable replacement of petroleum-based plastics and mineral-based elastomer for the fabrication of inflatable soft robotic actuators and shape-changing structures.
Both gelatin and Agar Agar based inflatable soft structures were fabricated. These structures explore two different materials and fabrications methods for the production of inflatable soft structures. Agar-Agar and Gelatin were chosen because of their non-toxicity, recyclability and biodegradability. Vegetal glycerin was added as plastisizer agent in both materials to tune their flexible and stretchable characteristics.
The gelatin soft gripper is reproduced from the guidelines found in the paper "Soft pneumatic gelatin actuator for edible robotics", the gripper is made by adapting molding techniques used traditionally for silicone materials. The Agar-Agar inflatable pouches are made using heat pressing process to provide bonding between two sheets of Agar Agar.
A gelatin soft gripper was reproduced following the generals guidelines found in "Soft pneumatic gelatin actuator for edible robotics". The unmolding phase was challenging due to the fragility of the material and the hose connection caused major malfunctions due to air leaks. The resulting soft gripper produced showed little to no actuations when inflated. Agar-Agar inflatable pouches structures were made using heat sealing processes and potato starch-based glue as hose to actuator sealant. The inflatable pouches were successfully inflated, demonstrated the viability of the heat sealing process and the use of agar-agar in the fabrication of sustainable, biodegradable, edible and recyclable inflatable structures.