Researchers make soft, actuated objects using commercial knitting machines
Carnegie Mellon University researchers have used computationally controlled knitting machines to create plush toys and other knitted objects that are actuated by tendons. It’s an approach they say might someday be used to cost-effectively make soft robots and wearable technologies.
Software developed by researchers from CMU’s Morphing Matter Lab and Dev Lab in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute makes it possible for the objects to emerge from the knitting machines in their desired shapes and with tendons already embedded. They can then be stuffed and the tendons attached to motors, as necessary.
Lea Albaugh, a Ph.D. student who led the research effort, developed the tendon-embedding technique and explored this design space to make lampshades that change shape, stuffed figures that give hugs when poked in the stomach and even a sweater with a sleeve that moves on its own. Although largely fanciful, these objects demonstrate capabilities that could eventually have serious applications, such as soft robots.