Researchers in the Netherlands have developed a new fastener with a microscopic mushroom-like design, which is hoped to lead to advances in the field of soft robotics.
The team, from Wageningen University, said that the fastener could be as strong as velcro but with less noise and damage to other fabrics. Currently available fasteners, like Velcro and 3M dual lock, are hook and loop fasteners and require harder, stiff material which is what causes the loud ripping sound when they are peeled off.
For the study, published in Biointerphases, the authors said they used 3D printing combined with moulding to create soft surfaces patterned with the tiny mushrooms. That material was then safely attached to three different fabrics and removed without causing damage, the team explained.
“It can be used in many applications such as for diapers or silent fasteners for military use,” said author Preeti Sharma. “There is still a lot of research to be done, but the mushroom-shaped design worked quite well for soft mechanical fasteners.”
According to the team, advances that make the current mushroom design stronger but keep its softness could allow it to be used in soft robotics to help soft robots walk on walls and ceilings like a gecko.
The design could also be used on grippers for robots used in farming and other agricultural jobs, Sharma added. The team confirmed that further work will need to be done before it is ready to be used in a commercially available product, such as minor changes to the mushroom shape, possibly by lengthening or shortening it to increase its effectiveness.