What is soft robotics?

Soft robotics is a growing field that takes inspiration from biological systems to combine classical principles of robot design with the study of soft, flexible materials. Many animals and plants are composed primarily of soft, elastic structures which are capable of complex movement as well as adaptation to their environment. These natural systems have inspired the development of soft robotic systems, in which the careful design of component geometry allows complex motions to be “pre-programmed” into flexible and elastomeric materials. The use of compliant materials to embed intelligence in the mechanics of the body enables designers to simplify the more complex mechanisms and software control systems used in traditional, rigid robotics. The inherent compliance of soft robots makes them highly adaptable to a wide range of tasks and environments. In particular, they are ideally suited for interactions with humans, from assisting with daily activities to performing minimally invasive surgery.


What is the soft robotics toolkit?

The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. The toolkit was developed as part of educational research being undertaken in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work. The toolkit includes an open source fluidic control board, detailed design documentation describing a wide range of soft robotic components (including actuators and sensors), and related files that can be downloaded and used in the design, manufacture, and operation of soft robots. In combination with low material costs and increasingly accessible rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC mills, the toolkit enables soft robotic components to be produced easily and affordably.

Each section of the site focuses on a soft robotic device or component, and includes the following sections:

  1. Design: A description of the device and how it works, with related design files that can be downloaded and guidelines on potential modifications you could make to the design.
  2. Fabrication: A bill of materials listing all of the parts, materials, and equipment you will need to build your own device, plus a detailed set of instructions for you to follow.
  3. Modeling: A discussion of modeling and analysis approaches you can use to predict and understand the behavior of the device and optimize your design.
  4. Testing: In order to validate your models and better understand your device, you will need to carry out empirical tests. This section describes the tests that other designers and researchers have carried out and that may provide inspiration for the design of your own experiments.
  5. Case Studies: Examples of how others have used the device or component for real-world applications.
  6. Downloads: All of the files related to the design, fabrication, modeling, testing, and control of the device.

The content on this site is drawn from projects carried out in a number of research labs. Our aim is to improve and expand the toolkit by welcoming feedback and contributions from the soft robotics community. If you have an interest in advancing the field and engaging with this community, please get in touch!

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Latest News

readwrite - How To Build Soft Robots

readwrite - How To Build Soft Robots

September 25, 2014
A new toolkit shows the way.
If you’ve ever wondered how to engineer a flexible robot that can move like a flesh-and-blood creature, have we got some tools for you. Thanks, that is, to an open-source collaboration that has outlined exactly how to create and program such "soft" robots.
More News

Some of the information contained in this web site includes intellectual property covered by both issued and pending patent applications. It is intended solely for research, educational and scholarly purposes by not-for-profit research organizations.
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