Harrison Young devised a miraculously cool "fiber-reinforced actuator" — a gripping robot-hand that can get traction on irregularly shaped, heavy objects, without any 3D printed parts and without any power-supply!
Young's robot is mostly made out of Smooth-On Ecoflex, a low-cost, two-part silicone that you pour into a mold you make out of strips of cardboard and hot glue. You make two rubber pieces this way: one is stretchy, the other has a strip of scrap paper in its center that constrains its motion. A length of plastic tubing allows you to inflate the rubber, causing it to bend and grip; winding a few feet of nylon rubber around the device constrains its motion. Add a piece of grip-tape for friction and you're good to go.
There are so many cool techniques in this little video, ways of thinking about altering material properties of simple, moldable rubber with household objects like ribbon and regular printer-paper! The pneumatic system is a marvel of simplicity, too. This is the kind of project that invites you to try many variations, and to think about other ways you can use its techniques to solve construction problems.
(via Bruce Sterling)