Soft, stretchy, Lego-style bricks offer a way to make three-dimensional (3D) prototypes of elastic structures, according to researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Credit: Stephen A. Morin, Harvard Univ.

'Click-e-bricks', which were developed by George Whitesides and his colleagues, can be used to build stretchy devices, such as hollow ones that expand when air is injected (pictured) or that have internal channels for liquid. The approach could be used to rapidly make prototypes of soft machines, such as soft robots, that move depending on changes in air pressure, current or light.

The team argues that click-e-bricks offer a faster alternative to 3D printing, which relies on hard acrylic polymers that limit the composition and complexity of the final structure.

Adv. Mater. (2014)