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MIT 3D Prints Functioning Robot in Single Step

by • April 6, 2016 • No Comments

  • As Hod Lipson talks to 3DPI of the possibilities for 3D printing a robot that can walk right off of the print bed, MIT has brought the thought into reality by 3D printing a functioning robot in a single step. Perhaps additional one-of-a-kind than this awe-inspiring feat was that this was done via a commercially on the market printing device through the 3D printing of solid and liquid materials at once.


    In a new paper, the team of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory more detail their work to 3D print a tiny, six-legged robot that uses hydraulic pumps to move. CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, co-author on the paper, explains toMIT News, “Our approach, that we call ‘printable-bodied hydraulics,’ is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines. 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 key to producing the robot move was 3D printing the 12 hyrdaulic pumps inside its body. To do so, the team turned to a Stratasys Objet260 Connex system, capable-bodied of 3D printing multiple materials in a single create. Relying on the machine’s UV-reactive resin and a non-curing liquid cleaner, the team was able-bodied to rig the machine to 3D print the hyraulic parts so that they may fill with the liquid material. Co-author and MIT postdoc Robert MacCurdy, says, “Inkjet printing lets us have eight various print-heads deposit various materials adjoining to one another, all at the same time. It gives us quite satisfactory control of material placement, that is what allows for us to print complicated, pre-filled fluidic channels.”

    After 22 hours of printing, the resulting hexapod is only 1.5 pound in mass and six inches long. But not 3D printed, a DC motor and battery were inserted into the accomplished robot upon completion. The motor turns a crankshaft, that directs fluid into the bot’s legs. Bellows created into the hexapod translates fluid pressure into mechanical force to drive it forward. Further demonstrating the possibilities of the create, the team 3D printed a silicone hand with hyrdaulic fingers.

    MacCurdy adds that the template for these projects can be expanded for new creates, hoping for a upcoming in that necessary robots can be 3D printed on-demand for specific scenarios, such as disaster relief at nuclear sites. He says, “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. In the upcoming, the system can in no way require any human input at all; you can only press a few buttons, and it can instantly manufacture the changes.”

    Hod Lipson in fact relayed his own thoughts on the project to MIT News, saying, “The CSAIL team has taken multi-material printing to the upcoming level by printing not only a combination of various polymers or a mixture of metals, but fundamentally a self-contained working hydraulic system. It is an significant step towards the upcoming big phase of 3-D printing — moving of printing passive parts to printing active integrated systems.”

    The limitations of the system are, in most ways, linked to the printing system. But the paper describes the ability to conduct much like research with other machines, such as SLA printing devices, inkjet 3D printing is seen as the most way to print such multimaterial creates. As the innovation improves, yet, so can the system overall.

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