We've been developing methods for creating durable, inexpensive soft body robots. Fundamentally, the technology involves designing a robot in CAD, 3d printing molds for the interior and exterior of the bot, and casting it in silicone.
These methods offer a few advantages over traditional subtractive fabrication. First, iteration is fast and dynamic. It is simple to design a parametric bot in CAD and simultaneously print multiple experiments and prototypes to flesh out and understand new forms.
Second, casting is inexpensive and incredibly repeatable. Once a successful design is fleshed out, creating an army of exact duplicates of this winning robot is as simple as casting the mold multiple times. The mold can even be duplicated for mass casting. This means stress testing never risks destroying one precious irreplaceable prototype.
Third, the designs that are developed using these methods easily translate into a manufacturing context. Printing and machining high volume production molds based on the initial CAD follows the same tool chain as any other industrial casting process. If a project calls for thousands of identical silicone robots, HTV (high temperature vulcanizing) silicones can be injected into machined molds just like any mass produced plastic part.
Prototype to Product
Here at Super-Releaser, we believe in application oriented robotics and are attempting to take human error and assembly time out of the process of prototyping robots as much as possible. We believe that soft robots (or plionics) have applications everywhere from prosthetics to orthotics, exploratory robots to industrial manipulators, but they've yet to be seriously applied to these problems because of the time consuming assembly process and unpredictability with things like like seams in soft materials and air lines routed through rubber.
One of the most crucial breakthroughs in our experiments has been discovering ways of making seamless silicone robots. Using soluble cores we are able to create complex internal channels, bladders, and feed lines inside a continuous silicone skin. The cores, once the molds have been poured and the silicone is cured, are gently washed out of the robot and it's ready to be plugged in and powered up.
We also believe that information wants to be free. We are committed to publishing our methods, results, and findings as much as is practical and possible. The purpose of hunting down scientific knowledge isn't to build a wall around what you find and charge admission. We believe that by releasing our research we are part of a culture that is raising the high water mark on scientific discovery, and enabling the potential new technologies, markets, and revolutions.
We sincerely believe that soft robots can improve life for people recovering from strokes, suffering from MS and CP, or who have lost limbs. We can not morally justify squatting on our discoveries when the potential to bring people inexpensive effective assistive technologies can come from sharing our findings.