A velcro-type closure with a microscopic design that looks like small mushrooms could mean advances for everyday consumers and scientific fields such as robotics.
In Biointerfaces, published by AIP Publishing, researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands show how design can use softer materials and still be strong enough to work.
Probabilistic fasteners work because they are designed with a small pattern on one surface that joins with features to the other surface. Fasteners currently available, such as Velcro and 3M, are called hook and loop fasteners. This design requires a harder, stiffer material, which is what causes a loud tearing sound when peeled and why they can damage delicate surfaces, such as fabrics, when attached to them.
The team believes a 3D mushroom design can be made with softer, more flexible materials. The medium-spherical mushroom shapes provide sufficient interlocking force on the fabric and remain strong.
For the study, the authors used 3D printing combined with modeling to create soft surfaces with drawings of small mushrooms. This material was securely attached to three different tissues and removed without causing damage.
“We wanted to show that if you go for these less rigid features, they can be used to attach and separate from soft, delicate surfaces, such as fabrics, without damage. It can be used in many applications, such as diapers or silent closures. for military use, “said author Preeti Sharma. “There’s still a lot of research to do, but the mushroom-shaped design worked pretty well for soft mechanical closures.”
Design could lead to advances in the field of soft robotics. Soft robotics aims to build robots with designs that mimic living creatures like octopuses, caterpillars and worms.
In this type of robotics, interfaces play an important role. With advances making the current mushroom design stronger but maintaining its softness, it could be used to help robots walk through walls and ceilings like a gecko, an animal that can do so due to a fastening-fixing process that is similar to the way probabilistic fasteners work.
The design could also be used in tweezers for robots used in agriculture and other agricultural work, Sharma said.
Sharma said more design research is needed before it is ready to be used in a commercially available product. Minor changes to the shape of the mushroom, possibly lengthening or shortening them to make it more effective, could lead to an even better product, he said.
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