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soft robots – biomaterials research & final

in one of the soft robots classes, we did a field trip to Material Connexion which is a company that has a database of materials. We went to visit their library (pretty cool!) and I got very interested on a material that was made out of pineapple juice:

As Kari mentioned, we have access to Material Connexion’s onlien library, where we can see more details and I decided to look further into that material. After struggling a bit to get access to the online database, I finally got in and this is what I got from it: It’s a biocellulose fiber, made in Thailand. It’s produced in small sheet sizes and it has a 4 way stretch property. I tried googling for the company but their website is off; they did have a contact in the database, so I emailed them. While I tried but I couldn’t get that much informaiton from the company that makes it, I started searching about this material. It seems like the fiber is made in a similar fermentation process that Kombucha leather is made; there are fibers made out of the pineapple leafs. It seems like the former has a thicker feeling, so it has been used as a replacement for leather.

Which brought me to a research regarding biomaterials. I was very interested in the Kombucha leather making process and decided to try it. Biocuture is a London based studio that is kind of the pioneer of the material and they shared the recipe in the internet, so I follow their lead and started my own kombucha leather production. Luckily I had a friend that had a scoby (Kombucha mom), so I was able to start it fast.


I still have the Kombucha culture fermenting / creating the surface fiber, but it’s still not ready to be taken out of the culture. Once is taken out of the tea + sugar + vinegar solution, it has to lay on a wood piece to dry – then it’s ready to be used. I continued search for other biomaterials that I could possibly try to explore for the final assignment and also found this bioplastic that seems simple to be produced. Time wise, I needed to decided what I wanted to explore and I felt like what was more exciting for me about soft robots class was the material exploration. I looked through the soft lab and I found this nude latex that I felt like it had a few characteristics that I was looking for in biomaterials. So I decided to prototype with it, exploring the cable systems. To do so, I started testing which combination of latex + ropes + hole finishing had less friction. At some point i started putting metal rivets on the holes and with a rope slightly waxed it works great. So I decided to do a necklace with a rivet grid, so that I could explore how the arrangement of 01 / 02 / 03 ropes would create and how it deformed the latex.



After I tested many arrangements, I think I was a bit frustrated due to the fact that it didn’t feel like I could predict what is the shape that I’d get by pulling the rope. Which I guess that if I had more time, I’d get more experience and would be able to get more results. The plastic ducks came in hand (from an old necklace) because they created a counter-weight necessary so that the shape would undo once I released the ropes. I hope I can still test the cable system with biomaterials (hopefully the bioleather) and I also want to try to explore more inflatables and silicone molding.


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