Everyone loves a soft robot, and I’m fond of the marine variety. This bioinspired prototype tentacle, made of silicone rubber, not only curls and extends in eerily squidlike fashion, it’s also got pressure sensors embedded beneath its suckers so it can grasp objects, like a cephalopod should.
The tentacle was built by a team of Italian and Israeli scientists led by Cecilia Laschi (Che-cheelia, that’s fun to say), associate professor of biorobotics at the Scuole Superior Sant’Anna near the coast of Tuscany. They say it’ll be good for undersea exploration and rescue. I’m thinking naval cephalobots will envelop enemy ships in huge suction cups and drag them down to silent doom. Kraken!
Perhaps robotic cuttlefish could be also trained to tend the world’s seagoing salmon pens, or “ride herd” on schools of free-range calamari. Now I’m hungry for Italian seafood.
Positive response to the recent review of my antique Tapewriter label embosser got me thinking about lower-cost ways to make embossed aluminum labels. A comment from reader Rick Hyde (“Actually, the aluminum is so ductile that I bet any Dymo machine can emboss it.”) led me to wonder about feeding aluminum strip to one of the inexpensive, “grocery store” label makers designed for plastic tape, and when I began looking for accessible sources of thin aluminum sheet metal my first thought was to use soda cans.
Experiment proved that yes, soda can metal embosses well enough in a small plastic-tape embosser, but there were three main problems:
The first two problems were solved by using a paper spiral-cutting template designed in software, printed onto an adhesive-backed label, and wrapped around the can before cutting. The template guidelines make it easy to cut a strip of uniform width, and the adhesive paper, if left in place during the embossing operation, brings the thickness up to 0.009″ and eliminates feeding problems.
Finally, the burr-raising problem was solved by using nibbling shears, instead of scissors, to make the cut. A small burr is still produced, but it is easily smoothed by “stropping” the cut strip against a leather strap. Detailed instructions are here.
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