• Gabriella Garcia

Soft Robotics week 5: silicone prototyping and daydreaming spaces

Things are truly gearing up toward finals, and this week I was afforded the space to use my soft robotics time to both play with relevant prototyping and take some time to daydream about hypothetical soft robot design which was a lovely exercise.

Silicone Mold Design Test

This was yet another week of firsts for me, both with 3D printing and designing for silicone. I decided to take the opportunity to prototype toward a project I'm doing for another class, and play with size and weight of the object. Fortunately the end product will be made of silicone, so this exercise was perfect for testing things out!

The object is meant to be the shape of an egg to represent new birth and potential, and needs a negative space for PComp components (a motor, small PCB, and battery at the very least. I created a simple vector object in MeshMixer and used Cura to slice it for the Ultimaker printer (I know the jargon but I don't actually know what it means), thankfully an egg is very easy to model and it was easy to configure for halving and hollowing the design so I could use it as a two-part mold:

It turned out that I didn't complete the design, which left a semi-circle hole on the narrow end. It was a happy accident actually, as it set up a space for me to rest a negative. I found a nice plastic cylinder on the junk shelf that fit the job nicely, and jerry-rigged some fittings to adjust it as needed.

I ended up using 160mg of silicone, I definitely underestimated the size of the mold. I followed the same process we used for the actuator last week and it worked perfectly! Half of the mold is still curing, at which point I'll join them together to get the full egg shape. I think I could have afforded more negative space, which also would have helped conserve silicone. Lesson learned!

Pt 2: Daydreaming about dream spaces

I decided to exercise some limitless daydreaming for a final project, knowing that adding constraints such as limited time and lack of materials would also constrain my ideation. It feels much more productive to dream big as though I had a large budget and all the time in the world, which made coming up with a final idea proposal a lot more fun and creative for me!

Here's the quad chart:

The idea is a modular inflatable floor mat, with a grid-like pixelation of single inflatable units that can be inflated independently or as a whole. There would be a thick foam mat that could fold (like a regular gymnastics mat) with a network of tubes and programmable valves that can indicate which pods should be inflated. The unit would be wrapped in a spandex casing to unify the appearance, sort of a landscape of humps and slopes. I was inspired by a mix of Verner Panton's Visiona room (which I thought was inflatable, but it turns out it's foam), bounce houses, and inflatable/portable gymnastics mats.

I used the Heilmeier Catechism to work through my proposal, which I found very useful! I'll bring those responses to class for discussion and feedback tomorrow. It's obviously a huge project, so if I were to proceed it would either be as a proof of concept exploration, or maybe prototyping a "dollhouse" version if time allows.