I’m taking a break from my instructional art card game project to explore another idea that is of interest to me. Earlier in the semester, I considered exploring “ability & extrasensory prosthetics”. I saw it as an opportunity to explore mold making, casting, and another interest of mine: soft robotics – the “subfield of robotics dealing with constructing robots from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms.”
I found a set of DIY plans online and 3D printed a mold positive for an air-powered, four-digit gripper. I mixed SmoothOn Eco-Flex silicone compound, poured it in the molds and baked in the a toaster oven to quick-cure it. One downside of my PLA printed 3D mold positives is that they are actually quite porous, so silicone will ooze out if it is not quick cured with heat. Another challenge is that the PLA will also melt and warp if you set your oven temperature too high.
The prototypes require another thin layer of cured silicone to seal the air chamber, which is welded together with a final thin coat of liquid silicone. Regardless, still had a few air leaks, which I attempted to seal with silicone caulking sealant. I’m not use that they are chemically the same, or will bond permanently, but it is a chore to mix new batches of silicone repeatedly, so I took a chance.
Right now, the grippers are actuated with a large syringe to pump compressed air into the phalanges’ air chambers, transforming them into pneumatic artificial muscles. It was fun to make, but I will have to take more time to think about where to go from here.