Material Connexion Trip

The trip to Material Connexion was mind-blown. As a former industrial designer this is like wonderland. The variety of material that the library provides is impressive. And the material are archived so nicely. personall I like how each swatch is detachable from the wall so people can carry them around. 

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I am always interested in how electronics work with the soft material so my focus on this trip was on the integration of electronic parts and the soft material.The fiber optics caught my eyes the most because I never thought it could be interwoven into the fabrics and it can applied to so many different scenario. 

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And then I did some research on how the fiber optics were integrated into fashion technology. Suddenly I have an idea of using the silicone casting method we practiced from the class and fiber optics together to create a illuminating soft robot.  

Store Visit: Softness Discovery

For the Store Visit. I found several items that have softness and potential use as my inspiration. Here I included a bunch of examples from the trip. 

  • The Eliminator Water Cannon was super interesting because it uses sponge to store water rather than a water tank. i think it is a brilliant idea since it also eliminated the process of reloading. Aso using soft sponge is such an inspiration as sponge can absorb lots of water and by using the the squeeze control it might be a good actuation choice. 
  • The water balloons filler were also showcased during the class. I like how they can easily be filled up and expand using very tiny channels. 
  • This bouncy light ball is so amazing I even ended up buying one. It has three shock sensors placed across the surface with their individual batteries.The whole design is so minimal and smart. This actually inspired me to do sth ligh-related for the midterm presentation. 

Interestingly the toys I found are all water-related and can all be played in water. The float ring for example, has foam imbedded within the rubber housing for floatation. I think it would be super cool to develop soft robot with water navigation abilities.  

Silicone Grabber Casting

I decided to cast a grabber using the silicone cast method taught in class. And before making a final refined design I planned to make a cardboard mold to test everything. It turns out to be a good idea and a bad idea at the same time. 

I drew the design on the USPS cardboards. This design does not require too much precision so the drawings and measurements are not that exact. Then I made the block for the negative air pockets with covered tape to prevent sticking and to provide more smoothness. 

Then I constructed walls all around the shapes using hot glue. Several layers of hot glue were applied to prevent leakage. After the assembly of the mold two layers of mold release were aplied. 

Then I just followed the basic process for silicone casting. I casted two parts at the same time and they will be assembled after. For the thinner part I made a bad choice putting in just normal paper in there as the stretch-prevention instead of a non-stretchable fabric. It turned out later to be the main reason for the later failure. 

During the casting the paper already tore a bit. And because I did not pour enough thickness on top of the thin part it became really fragile. I did some last minute fix and then sandwitched the two parts together. 

When I was testing it. The problem showed up. Only one 'finger' would curl up and infloat. I figured there should be two reasons:

  1. The paper I use already tore itself up during the pumping (picture 2). It does not support the expansion motion. and because of the torn-up it created leakage for the whole piece. 
  2. When was casting the whole piece the mold was not completely 'flat' or parallel to the water level. So the right side has more material than the left. Although there is no leakage on this side the air would naturally travel through the thinner part. 

Going further with the realization of the current failures. I would choose another fabric for the insert. The mole will be constructed more precisely using 3d printing. And I will make sure the casting process is completely in a more controlled environment(where everything is flat...). 

Firefly Squid and my imagination

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Among most of the weird animals I saw, firefly squids always got my attention and got me thinking about the possibilities of future technology and application. 

"The firefly squid is a small member of the squid family, growing to a length of only three inches (seven centimeters). The squid is equipped with special light-producing organs called photophores. These photophores are found on many parts of the squid's body and emit a deep blue light. Large photophores can be found on the tips of the tentacles as well as around the eyes. Thousands of tiny photophores can be found throughout the squid's body, giving it the ability to emit light along its entire form. The lights can be flashed in unison or alternated in an endless number of animated patterns. These light shows are thought to serve several functions. They can be used to communicate with potential mates or rivals. They may also be used to disguise the squid's shape and confuse predators, allowing it to escape. The firefly squid is the only member of the squid family that is believed to have color vision. While most cephalopods have only one visual pigment, firefly squid have three. They also have a double-layered retina in the back of the eye. These adaptations for color vision may have evolved to enable firefly squid to distinguish between ambient light and bioluminescence, and to help them decode the patterns of light created by other members of the species." (http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/firefly-squid.html)

I have always been imagining if there is a way to 'program' these photophores and put them into human skin. this is probably the most organic way of putting a 'screen' on our body. Just like the photophores on the squids appear as dots. These 'dots' can be viewed as 'pixels' and can display various types of information such as time, weather, even medical conditions. For further development if these "bio-pixels" can be arranged in a more sophisticated and meticulous level it might even achieve a 'actual screen' on human body without using too much hardware. A minimum amount of the electric charge can activate the illumination. It will be amazing to ditch the physical phones on our hands and use our body as the display. 

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