Experienced and aspiring researchers interested in soft robotics can now avail of a toolkit that is an online treasure trove of downloadable, open-source plans, how-to videos and case studies to assist them in controlling soft robotic devices.
It will provide researchers with a level of detail not typically found in academic research papers, including 3D models, bills of materials, raw experimental data, multimedia step-by-step tutorials and case studies of various soft robot designs, researchers said.
"The goal of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other's work," said Conor Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
Collaborating with Trinity College Dublin, the toolkit's developers hope to stimulate the creation of new kinds of soft devices, tools and methods.
According to Walsh, soft robotics is especially well suited to shared design tools because many of the required components - such as regulators, valves and microcontrollers - are largely interchangeable between systems.
With the advent of low-cost 3D printing, laser cutters and other advances in manufacturing technology, soft robotics is emerging as an increasingly important field.
Engineers are pioneering the use of soft robotics for assisting in a wide variety of tasks such as physical therapy, minimally invasive surgery, and search-and-rescue operations in dangerous environments.
The paper describing the toolkit development appeared in the journal Soft Robotics.