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Add this to the list of feats 3D printing devices can perform: Fully functioning robots created out of liquid.

by • April 6, 2016 • No Comments

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MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) is 3D printing robots.

Not robot parts, but robots. Working machines that
function autonomously.

The thought is that
one of the largest
barriers to long-promised robotic revolution is in making. Robots have a lot of parts, and making them is expensive and highly specialized.

But 3D printing equipment are getting additional and additional dynamic and may manufacture traditional assembly system
es obsolete, actually for harsh machines.

In a new paper, researchers at CSAIL present a technique for 3-D printing robots that
involves printing solid and liquid materials at the same time.

The new method allows for the team to instantly 3-D print robots in a single step, with no assembly require
d, via a commercially-available 3-D printing device.

“Our approach, that we call ‘printable hydraulics,’ is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines,” says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who oversaw the project and co-wrote the paper. “All you have to do is stick in a battery and motor, and you have a robot that
can practically walk right out of the printing device.”

The proof is in the 3D-printed pudding. To test their concept, researchers 3-D printed a crawling six-legged robot actuated by 12 hydraulic pumps.

So how does it work?

Liquids are a big challenge for 3D printing equipment. Most approaches to printing with liquids require
a post-printing step to clean up the messy surface of the resulting printed object. That step manufactures it complex for liquid-based methods to scale.

With “printable hydraulics,” an inkjet printing device deposits individual droplets of material that
are equite 20 to 30 microns in diameter, or less than half the width of a human hair. Employing high-intensity UV light, the printing device solidifies the substrate materials.

“Inkjet printing lets us have eight various print-heads deposit various materials adjoining to one another all at the same time,” postdoc Robert MacCurdy, one of the paper’s authors, explains. “It gives us quite satisfactory control of material placement, that is what allows for us to print harsh, pre-filled fluidic channels.”

The hexapod robot printed via the printable hydraulics method moves with assist of a single DC motor that
pumps fluid to the robot’s legs. Aside of its motor and power donate, equite component is printed in a single step with no assembly require
d.

“If you have a crawling robot that
you want to have step over a thing larger, you can tweak the create in a matter of minutes [with printable hydraulics],” MacCurdy says. “In the next, the system
can complexly require
any human input at all; you can only press a few buttons, and it can instantly manufacture the changes.”

There are yet drawbacks. The hexapod took 22 hours to print, that is far too long if the innovation is going to scale in a making environment. But it is actually yet early going.

“Accelerating the system
depends less on the particulars of our technique and additional on the engineering and resolution of the printing equipment themselves,” says advisor Rus. “Printing ultimately takes as long as the printing device takes, so as printing equipment improve, so can the making capabilities.”

The team’s work was funded, in part, by a grant of the National Science Foundation.


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