The future development of soft robotics and medical devices could be facilitated by a newly-created method of combining soft materials.
Researchers from Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have found a means of chemically bonding multiple soft materials that can be applied during any manufacturing processes, including 3D printing and coating.
“A new way to combine soft materials has been developed that could make it easier to create malleable medical devices in future.“
The team took hydrogels and elastomers and created chemical bonds between them without needing to apply a glue layer, with the method allowing coating and printing of different soft materials in a variety of sequences.
Currently, the creation of complex soft machines is limited by how difficult it is to attach them to each other without compromising their properties, meaning this breakthrough could have significant implications for manufacturing.
The research also indicated that hydrogels can be made heat-resistant in high temperatures using a bonded coating, extending the temperature range that hydrogel-based devices can be used.
Qihan Liu, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS, said: "We hope that this will pave the way for rapid-prototyping and mass-producing biomimetic soft devices for healthcare, fashion and augmented reality.”
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