The Bartlett School of Architecture


Soft Climber

Lutz Barndt and Jia Wan

This project explores the field of soft robotics and pneumatics for potential applications within manufacturing. With the aim of creating new forms and methods of placing concrete, pneumatics were applied to concrete casting as a way to create adaptable and malleable formwork. From this, the project focus shifted towards the control of pneumatics and the development of a soft robot.

A flexible fluidic actuator was developed, that capitalised on the inherent strength of pressurised air. The robot is based a biological example: the inchworm. The actuators are created by air cushions that inflate against an inextensible material, causing a bending movement. The bending is orchestrated into a gait that mimics the inchworm.

With the elements of two grippers and a trunk, the robot is programmed to navigate building elements such as columns or pipes. The pneumatic nature of the robot results in a compliant structure which will not cause damage to the structure or harm those around it. The development of spacesuits was studied in the design of the wardrobe of the robot. It allows movement and increases the friction where the robot grasps its environment.  


1. Gripper actuator shown in actuated and relaxed positions.
2. Gripper actuator shown over sample structure. 
3. Flexible fluidic actuators displaying the constricted trunk position of the soft robot.