SOFT ROBOTICS | MATERIAL CONNEXION

Last week our class researched the Material Connexion’s new materials library, and this week we visited their showroom, which features the newest materials in the collection. 

Despite the gorgeous polymer materials, I at first felt obligated to be drawn to natural materials, though I’m not sure if naturally extracted materials would even be more sustainable in every case. Either way, they were beautiful in their own right.

Here’s a form of bacteria secretion that becomes leathery and durable when dried. 

Here’s a thick paper made from mulberry bark, beautifully dyed to show its capacity for color fastness. There were a few featured materials derived from mulberry bark.

After the visual spectacle wore off, there were two materials I kept thinking about after I left. 

The first is this fabric solar cell. It’s soft, flexible, and maybe even somewhat elastic, but maybe that’s only to the extent that you can smooth out its tendency to wrinkle. 

The second is this soft circuit printed on film- a process, not a material. It’s soft, flexible, and elastic. It’s in the Materials Library HERE. Description: 

“Screen printing of multiple inks, both conductive and insulative, to form circuits on TPU films. This technique in combination with the inks and substrates selected creates an extensible, or stretchable circuit. After the circuit pattern is determined, screens are “burned” into stencils of the appropriate shape, using photo-reactive masking liquid. The ink is then squeegeed onto the screens depositing the ink onto the substrate, usually a flexible elastomeric film. This is repeated with all the ink layers in their particular pattern and sequence. Multiple ink types are needed for their individual properties, which comprise the circuit.”

For my final, I'm interested in prototyping a soft solar panel.