Soft Robotics: Big Box Store

I’m not entirely certain if Blick counts as a “big box store,” but that’s where I hunted down potential soft materials this weekend. Some were materials that felt a bit obvious as soft materials, and other items felt that they could be considered within our particular realm of soft things depending on how they were used.

1: Socks

Socks are soft in texture (particularly these), and has some built in elastics. Socks do tend to stretch out over time, but for a while, maintain some tensile elasticity.

2: Rubber Toy

Stretchy, delightful! Has both compressive and tensile elasticity.

3: Rubber Roller

This is technically a combination of both soft and hard materials. I liked the squish of the roller, and I liked its potential as a point of interaction.

4: Felt/Wool

This material can be reshaped into felt structures. It has “squish,”” and somewhat more limited “stretch.”

5: Ribbon

This material is not very elastic, but is quite flexible. It could be used in cable-control projects, and has a nice silkiness.

6: Linoleum Square

I don’t recall encountering linoleum squares like this before, and I kind of loved them! They are not very elastic, but has a really interesting flexibility (a pleasant amount of resistance to force).

7: Dual-toned Sequins

The stretchiness of the dual-toned sequined cloth varies quite a bit from fabric to fabric, but I really enjoy both its the texture and visual effect.

8: Chain

Chains aren’t really soft materials, but they behave like soft materials in how it moves as a whole (rather than its individual links). The whole is flexible, though it is made of rigid parts.

9: Open Weave Muslin

I liked the netting of this fabric – it seems like it would be quite easy to attach other items through its structure. It reminds me of a breadboard!

10: Tape

This feels like a soft classic, like paper or string! Fairly flexible, but not very elastic.

11: Leather

Another soft classic – limited tensile elasticity.

12: String + Yarn

Quite flexible, and elasticity varies quite a bit from string to string. For the materials represented here, most are tougher fibers with limited elasticity.

13: Silicone

Silicone has a really great feel. Julia Rich ran a workshop in which we made silicone copies of our thumbs, and since then, I’ve been really interested in using more silicone in my projects.