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SoRoCAD: Design, simulate and fabricate simple, pneumatic soft robots

Updated: 5 days ago

Difficulty: Elementary

Duration: Design - 30min, Fabrication - ca. 7-10h

Left: Air Channel Design ; Middle: Silicone Exterior Design; Right: Simulation of the designed robot


SoRoCAD is a tool for soft robotics design. It exposes the design parameters in its UI, and supports previewing the soft robot’s behavior by simulating the final actuation during the design phase. The following tutorial gives you an example of how to design and fabricate a silicon, pneumatic soft robot using SoRoCAD.


Prerequisite & Background topics

Designing Soft Robots that move the way you would like them to move is hard. Basic physical rules apply here: e.g. for pneumatic actuation - air always pushes in the way of least resistance, i.e. the thinner wall gets pushed out. The simulation in the tool is a key fact as it gives you a chance to see what movement you designed robot will do after fabricating it (not 100% accurate in terms of angle of the movement but direction of movement is correct).


Materials & Equipment

Software SoRoCAD (Runs on a MacBook)

3D printer


Mug for mixing silicone

Drying plate/area for silicone



1. Before you start with designing the robot we would like to show you the interface of SoRoCAD with all its elements

Left: Interface of SoRoCAD during exterior geometry design: a) the viewport on the left showing the actuator (viewport control is possible); b) the three steps in the design pipeline (Air Channel, Exterior and Mold); c) sliders and text fields to control parameters that define the actuator; d) Run Simulation button; e) simulation preview (GIFs). / Right: Simulation window: f) viewport showing the simulation of the actuator; g) the user can step through the simulation using timesteps.

2. Designing a soft robot using SoRoCAD includes three basic steps in the tool before you can start fabricating the robot with real silicon materials. Those three basic steps are designing the Air channels, then the Silicone Exterior and then exporting the Mold file (the software has one tab for each step, which is visible in the top of the software window).

a.) Starting with building the pneumatic network in the Air Channel tab. The pneumatic network inside the soft robot takes care that the air pumbed inside gets distributed evenly. This is important to assure a smooth actuation of the soft robot. The tool gives the option for 6 different types of air channels that can be stacked next to each other as blocks. Each air channel block can be adapted regarding its dimension, its position in relation to the others (y-axis) and also rotated.

If you do not want to start from scratch you can also use templates for basic movement that the software provides.

b.) The you define the exterior geometry such as wall thicknesses