Harvard University labs, working in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, are offering a comprehensive online toolkit to help in the design, creation, and control of soft robots made from flexible materials. Aimed at skilled and novice researchers alike, the Soft Robotics Toolkit provides a veritable cornucopia of downloadable, open-source plans, step-by-step tutorial videos, and real world studies for users to apply to their own soft robot project.
With soft robotics becoming the new must-have technology for robotics researchers, the Harvard and Trinity teams’ online resource aims to allow users to exploit the new era of low-cost 3D printers, laser cutters, and other small-scale manufacturing technologies. By extrapolating principles developed in orthodox rigid robot design to soft robot construction, the new toolkit is focused on demonstrating ways of working with flexible materials to help researchers produce soft robots for a range of applications.
The philosophy behind this sharing in design is to inspire the creation of new kinds of soft devices, tools, and approaches to help improve prototyping and fabrication techniques on a larger scale. According to Professor Walsh, this type of knowledge-sharing arrangement is also particularly suited to soft robotics as many of the necessary components, like valves, microcontrollers, and other devices, are mostly transposable between soft robot systems.
The use of open-source software has resulted in more open and accessible in-roads into computer software use and innovation. Likewise, the researchers believe that open-design hardware systems, in concert with improvements in computer-aided engineering and more available prototyping proficiencies, improve the potential to nurture cooperation on common projects involving mechanical engineering.
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