New grip with microscopic mushroom shapes could be an upgraded version of Velcro

A latch with microscopic mushroom shapes may be as strong as Velcro but with less noise and less damage to other fabrics, the researchers say. Credit: Preeti Sharma

The design may be a quieter version of velcro with uses ranging from diapers to robotics.

A Velcro-like fixture with a microscopic design that looks like small mushrooms could mean advances for everyday consumers and scientific fields like robotics.

In Biointerpazat, published by AIP Publishing, researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands show how the model can use softer materials and still be strong enough to work.

Probabilistic connectors work because they are designed with a small pattern on one surface that joins the features on the other surface. Currently available connectors, such as Velcro and 3M, are called crochet and loop fasteners. This design requires stronger and more rigid material, which is what causes the high tear sound when they are peeled off and why they can damage delicate surfaces, such as fabrics, when joined together.

The team believes that a 3D mushroom design can be made with softer, more flexible materials. The shapes of hemispherical mushrooms provide sufficient shear strength to the fabric and are kept strong.

For the study, the authors used 3D printing combined with shaping to create soft surfaces modeled on small mushrooms. Then, that material was safely glued to three different fabrics and removed without causing any damage to them.

“We wanted to prove that, if you go for these less solid features, they can be used to join and detach on soft and delicate surfaces, like fabrics, without damage. It can be used in many applications such as diapers or silent fasteners for military use, “said author Preeti Sharma. “There’s still a lot of research to be done, but the mushroom-shaped design worked well enough for soft mechanical fasteners.”

Design can lead to advances in the field of soft robotics. Soft robotics aims to build robots with designs that mimic living creatures such as octopuses, caterpillars and worms.

In that type of robotics, interfaces play an important role. With advances that make the current mushroom model stronger but retain its softness, it can be used to help robots walk on walls and ceilings like a gecko – an animal that can do this because of a process of disconnection that is similar to how potential fasteners work.

The design can also be used on clamps for robots used in agriculture and other agricultural jobs, Sharma said.

Sharma said more research is needed on the model before it is ready to be used in a commercially available product. Small changes in the shape of the mushroom, lengthening or shortening it to make it more effective, could lead to an even better product, she said.

Reference: “Mushroom bow: Preparation and mechanics of a possible soft bioinspiration fixation” by Preeti Sharma, Vittorio Saggiomo, Vincent van der Doef, Marleen Kamperman and Joshua Dijksman, 19 January 2021, Biointerpazat.
DOI: 10.1116 / 6.0000634

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