3 Techniques for Building Soft Robots

Education Photography & Video Robotics Science


Want to build your own Baymax? Soft robotics may not be quite ready for health-care robots, but research at iRobot, Otherlab, MIT, Harvard, and Carnegie Mellon is surging ahead. Get started on your own with these three techniques from Carnegie Mellon’s Chris Atkeson, and find many more tips, tricks, and resources on his page at www.cs.cmu.edu/~cga/soft/.

  1. Enclose air in sheets of sewn, sealed, material, structured like clothes. One way to experiment is to buy cheap inflatables — or scavenge broken ones — and use the repair kits, a hot air welder, or an impulse sealer to make the seams.

  2. Use 3D design and printing (or machining or cutting) to make more complicated shapes. Working directly with flexible materials can be challenging, but that’s only one approach — you can use these techniques to create molds for other materials.

  3. Carve, sculpt, dip, spray, or mold a soft material, such as silicone. The result won’t be as obviously inflatable as Baymax, but you can equip it with internal bladders and space for actuators, sensors, bat-teries, and more.

A soft robotic arm from Carnegie Mellon. Photo: Siddharth Sanan
A soft robotic arm from Carnegie Mellon. Photo: Siddharth Sanan

Read more about Baymax, soft robotics, and Disney’s Big Hero 6 at makezine.com/big-hero-6.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.