As Amitabh Shrivastava puts it, soft robotics is an exciting emerging field where robotic actuators are made not from rigid materials, but are instead designed to flex and adapt to their surroundings under pneumatic or hydraulic control. Exciting, yes; but as this technology is in its infancy, if you want to tinker with soft robotics, you need to design your actuators, source materials, and actually fabricate your device, creating a bottleneck to exploration.
To address this need, Shrivastava has created FLXO, a series of prefabricated soft actuators which can be constructed on a standard 3D printer. They’re meant to integrate directly into the VEX robotics system, though with 3D-printed adapters, one could presumably use them anywhere. A variety of motions are shown in GIF form on his website — including a linear actuator, bending actuator, and devices that combine 45 or 90 degree twists with linear motion.
Build details appear to be thin at this point, so hopefully they’ll be revealed soon. If you’re wondering how to actually get pneumatic power to these soft robotic contraptions, he’s actually got a solution for that (almost) ready to go. As we reported earlier Shrivastava is now crowdfunding a Programmable Air platform that facilitates Arduino pneumatic control.