Soft Robotics – Final Presentation

For my final, I planned on making an inflating frame which displays embedded words or designs using pressurised air, in a loop. I wanted to use zero-volume air chambers using Kevin C. Galloway’s method.

Here’s a recap of my proposal presentation:

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1st iteration:

For the first iteration, I wanted to test out Kevin’s method of creating the flat chambers of air between two layers.

Step 1: Create a flat mould

I used sheets of cardboard to fashion a open box with low walls to cure a thin sheet of silicone

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-30 at 03.49.25.jpeg

Step 2: Cure one layer (extremely thin) of silicone

Step 3: Use Adobe Illustrator to create interconnected design that inflates sequentially, laser cut into a stencil. I used paper for this iteration.

Step 4: After the first layer has taken its time to cure, place the stencil on top of it and spray demolding spray on the exposed parts of the silicone

Step 5: Cure another layer


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This iteration failed to create zero-volume chambers in the silicone. The reason was the use of material to create the stencil — the spray had seeped in through the paper, or had been absorbed rapidly by it, causing it to not stick onto the first layer.

One iteration down, I tried to get in touch with the experts.

After being unable to get a response from Kevin Galloway himself, I had a conversation with Moritz Walker, who like myself tried to use Kevin’s method to make zero-volume chambers.

My takeaways from the conversation were:

  • Choose a mask material that conforms to the surface of the polymer.  Paper works, but thin films such as vacuum bagging films are better {He was wrong about paper..}
  • Using a cardboard box for the mould is as suitable than any other material
  • Air channels narrower than 2mm are hard to create
  • The thinner the material you can pour the more pronounced the inflation

2nd iteration:

For this iteration, I chose to laser cut a thin plastic material for the stencil in Step 3.

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The stencil was great: stayed flat, had a natural affinity to stick evenly on to the first layer of silicon and hold the design in place, and did not let any spray chemicals from seeping or touching the areas of the silicone that need not be touched.

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The chambers almost worked! They however, revealed the problem in my stencil again; this time it was that the holes were too narrow for proper inflation and required a lot of pressure and manipulation to blow up. They ended up inflating only half way through.

Soft Robotics from Amena Hayat on Vimeo.

3rd iteration:

As I experimented with silicone zero-volume chambers, almost getting to the end result I wanted, saving a bit of silicone for my final casting, I tried to create them in another material to experiment with the results: Mylar

I got the idea from Alexandra Gomez:

Laser cut two layers of mylar into the design, metal side facing in so they do not stick to each other:


Iron them between two large flat sheets of mylar with the metal side facing out. The method was to create similar shaped air chambers between those sheets.


The enlarged design, when laser cut, stuck on the outer edges as the heat laser from the laser worked on them. It was convenient as well as beautiful.



The air chambers worked!

However, ironing the two outer sheets together resulted in the piece being heavily crumpled. Due to which the effect of inflation, although visible, was not as pronounced as I liked. It was a working iteration, just not very visually appealing.

Soft Robotics from Amena Hayat on Vimeo.

Air pump and its controller circuit:

For the purpose of using the air pump controlled by my microcontroller, to get a timed flow of air that inflates and deflates the chambers sequentially, I created the following circuit:


  1. a air mattress pump
  2. Arduino Uno
  3. a 10k resistor
  4. a TIP120 transistor
  5. a splitter jack
  6. 8 AA batteries

The code was simple:

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And it resulted in the air pump giving out air as a sinusoidal wave, like this:

Soft Robotics from Amena Hayat on Vimeo.

Final iteration:

Using wider channels for the design to inflate thoroughly. I sampled it with a design of branches, and a sine wave.

Soft Robotics from Amena Hayat on Vimeo.

The result was in my opinion: beautiful. Something to definitely use in more creative ways.

Soft Robotics from Amena Hayat on Vimeo.

But one day prior to the final, I had run out of silicone to create the words “EXHALE” –which was my ultimate goal with end product.

Another problem was that the looping GIF motion I wanted was not possible. The chambers are invisible before the first inflation, but did not disappear upon deflation.

It may have been helpful to vacuum out the air after each inflation.

I will now showcase my samples.

Question:  Any other applications of this that come to mind?


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Fashion Technology – Project Idea

For this project, I want to excite Christmas enthusiasts with a tool to anticipate and celebrate the season by wearing an expressive sweater.

I plan to make an embroidered, fully decorated Christmas tree using threads, LEDs, neopixels and any other decorative elements I can get my hands on.

The tree will have a default lighting setting, along with a base button (an embedded velostat pressure sensor) that uses either

  1. the timer in adafruit Flora microcontroller itself,
  2. or GPS time data from the internet

to light up the tree in terms of number of days left to Christmas, all while the switch is pressed– returning to default lights when it is not.


Planning phase


Christmas tree brooch concept

I intend on using the Flora for this application. Maybe even use its own neopixel for further decoration.

Electronic Embroidery

For my first fashion technology assignment, I wanted to create a miniature LED circuit that’s easy on the eyes.

Using felt cutouts, LEDs, conductive thread and a simple cell battery, I created a vase in preparation for my final project– a more intricate embroidery circuit that lights up partially as a countdown to Christmas.

Started with a sewing kit, and cutting out felt to make flowers
Using pliers, shortened and twisted the LEDs to prepare them for sewing
To incapsulate the battery and complete the switch, I cut out the vase as a battery holder

I sewed the design with normal thread, using green for branches, and held down the flowers with a few stitches. To save time, I experimented the circuit with only one LED.

After sewing the design, this is what the internal connections of the switch looked like
Using conductive thread, I finished off the circuit and connected it to the vase battery holder
To hide the connection, I used two layers of fabric
The LED lights up whenever a cell battery is inserted in the vase!

Now, on the next..

Material ConneXion – my favourite material

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This material is excellent for some of the project ideas in my mind, including those that blur the boundary between wearable tech and soft robotics. Its durability and recovery after stretch is what pulls me towards it.

It is soft but firm, moderately elastic and offers flexibility with firmness. Being resistant to flame, bacteria et cetera, all including stains, is a major plus for wearable tech because it is usually not even possible to wash them once sewn with electronics.

This material is available through the manufacturer, which is Siotech Coorporation. Their address as well as their Sales rep’s contact details are provided in the materials database.


Silicon Mold Design – Lessons Learned


The previous week, I learned to convert some PVC pipe, a 3D printed inner core into a mold to cast silicon in. We made an inflatable silicon actuator by adding fabric cut in the right places inside the cast.

After that, I wanted to cast my own actuator, and this time try to do a sleeker, longer version of the one last week. I decided to use paper instead of fabric, and use straws of different thicknesses to create a hollow tube, rigid in some places and inflatable in others.

My mold was made using a large milkshake straw, a thinner plastic straw, a metal stick to hold the straws in place, a base made of cardboard and paper.

Upon casting, I learned that pouring silicon into such a tiny space was impossible — at that stage I believe I wanted a funnel attached to the mouth of the larger straw.

The next morning:

After the cast has cured over night, I learned that despite using ample amount of demolding spray, it was impossible to pull it out from the tight space between the straws.

I then learned that mine was a deconstruct-able mold. I cut through the bigger straw to find out that air bubbles had formed all over the cast, and realised that instead of a funnel, to achieve this kind of shape I must have a mechanism to pour (and demold) longitudinally. Two half molds for the outer shell would have solved the problem of air bubbles.

Prototyping for AR – Vuforia Targeted Audio Tutorial

The Vuforia component makes AR objects come to  life in Unity, making it easy to apply 3D objects, images, video, audio and more onto targets. We learned how to use it to create augmented 3D objects on image targets, and now we’ll learn to trigger audio when that image (or other) target is recognised by the AR camera, adding sound effects to our augmented reality.

Step 1

Follow this tutorial to use Vuforia in Unity in order 
to add a 3D object to an image target.

Step 2

In Unity, go to GameObject > Audio > Audio Source,
and add it to your Image Target as a child in the 

Step 3

Take the .mp3, .wav (or likewise) audio file and drag 
it into your Assets folder for the project in Unity

Step 4

Drag the audio file into the Audio Clip section in the 
Inspector when you click the Audio Source

Make sure you uncheck the "Play on Awake" option, 
unless you want the audio to play every time the 
project starts

Step 5

Stay in the Audio Source Inspector. In the 3D Sound
Settings, tweak the Max Distance according to your 
project. The larger this is, the more likely that 
sound will be able to reach the audio listener of 
your ARCamera even when the distance from the Image 
Target is large

Step 6

Create a C# Script. This will create your AudioSource.
Here you can code how and what will trigger the audio
in terms of number of targets, their order and 
hierarchies etc

The code should look something like this example, 
called ImageTargetPlayAudio, which implements the 
ITrackableEventHandler interface.
Add it to your Image target.

Another example, for when  multiple targets are added 
and require different sounds to be played according 
to the number of targets tracked

Step 7

And you're done! Test the AR experience by hitting 
"Play" on your scene and use your target image to 
trigger the new sound you just added!


Case Study – Super Mario AR by Abhishek Singh

Super Mario AR

ITP alumnus Abhishek Singh’s project went viral last year in 2017. Check out the video:

Super Mario in AR is a fun project, not to mention the only time true Mario Kart fans can immerse themselves in the game they previously only played on a screen. This fact is the biggest reason why the public took specific interest in the game, and I’m assuming would love to see more iconic games and movies in this enveloping medium.

The game uses the Hololens to add augmented Super Mario elements on to the real world, and certain gestures to control the progress of the main character. It has a first person’s POV, and for features like growing in size after a mushroom as been tapped, for instance, the size of the environment is decreased to have the same effect.

It has a multiplayer version, making the whole thing a lot more fun. The design is taken from the iconic game itself and imposed in this case to a walkway in Central Park.

The intended audience I believe are existing fans of the game, people who like immersive gaming, young gamers, and people with the ability to move about.

I find this project an inspiring because I tend to expect AR to add enjoyable and entertaining possibilities to its targets, kind of like Snapchat filters. Another aspect is that of AR encouraging body movement. Once AR hardware gets light enough and portable enough, you can actually see how stuff like this might be able to encourage people to get out and stay active. The real world, with like actual hikes and stuff, just gets boring so fast.