Matthew Borgatti started his experiment of building soft robots in October 2012. With help of Viridis3D and a lot of tweaking, he has built a working robotic tentacle prototype.
The mold, in which you cast two part RTV silicone, were printed on a modified Z-Corp printer, with Viridis' material MakerDust forming the outer shell, and corn starch forming the inner core. This air-powered, 3D-printed robot has no hard moving parts. There are three hollow ribbed volumes inside this tentacle that control its motion.
The control scheme is pretty simple: a barebones visual interface in Processing sends signals to an Arduino. From there, it switches the low power signal to high power via a Darlington transistor. The transistor switches each of 3 solenoid valves on and off, providing air to each of the 3 bladders inside of the silicone tentacle. The valves operate on a really slow PWM, their duty cycle determining how much air makes it to each bladder. Since there's a bleed I can control on the system, I don't have to worry about pumping air both in and out. I just adjust how much time the valves spend on, and the tentacle does it's routine.
Watch video below an early demonstration of the 3D printed tentacle in action. The files for the mold are available on Thingiverse. All of the code can be grabbed here on Adafruit's forum. You can find more details on Mattew's blog.
Posted in 3D printing Applications
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