24/7 Customer Service (800) 927-7671

Pleurobot the 3D Printed Salamander Yields Helpful Data for Researchers Hoping to Help Paraplegics & Amputees

by • June 29, 2016 • No Comments

EPFL Logo QUADRIIt is no secret that we frequently steal the magic of nature for our own purposes, whether that’s literally in bringing animals for their fur and other parts, frequently tragically, or in gently observing how they move and survive on a daily basis to come up with countless inventions we are able-bodied to call our own, generally with credit being given to the other deserving, absorbing creatures that walk (and swim) on planet Earth beside us. Biomimicry frequently plays a role in the 3D printing and robotics realm too and we’ve seen all things of butterfly wings inspiring additional streamlined 3D printed structures for electronics to teams of bot spiders working together to deplete projects, and additional.

Now, researchers at The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) at Lausanne have gone to excellent lengths to study the Pleurodeles waltl, in addition known as the Spanish ribbed newt, and they have in fact created a complicated 3D printed robot that allows for them to examine the amphibian closely. The hope is for part of a additional noble cause in that with this research they can be able-bodied to translate a few of this knowledge into assisting paraplegic patients and amputees with creating improved neuroprosthetic devices—an area where both 3D printing and robotics have been heavily integrated of late.


Spanish ribbed newts

Preferring to generally hang out in calm, deep areas of fresh water, this particular salamander enjoys preying on other small inhabitants like tadpoles, able-bodied to take his desired menu items by injecting him with a poison that is highly toxic (while just offering minor irritation to a human). They derive their name of their famous ribs that are so sharp they in fact poke out of the body, bringing toxins. On the other hand they can walk on land, they generally do not. This particular newt, yet, caught the attention of the EPFL researchers for the reason of both his amphibious nature and his skeletal structure, the main area where their interests lie in assisting those with conditions many most likely cautilized by injuries to that corresponding area in the human body.

Studies at the EPFL regarding salamanders have been ongoing previously but this can be the initially time that they’ve utilized 3D tracking (like X-Ray videos) to know precisely how the amphibian moves, noting 64 various points along its skeleton. Dubbed Pleurobot, the machine can walk, crawl, and swim. His ‘bones’ are 3D printed, complemented by motorized joints and a deplete electronic circuitry that serves as his nervous system. And while his action (see video below) can yet be considered a bit lumbering, the researchers are able-bodied to learn a excellent deal of Pleurobot’s motion and spine working together. This has been a work in progress, yet.

oneThe team not long ago released details of their project in a paper, ‘From cineradiography to biorobots: an approach for createing robots to emulate and study animal locomotion,’ by K. Karakasiliotis, R. Thandiackal, K. Melo, T. Horvat, N. K. Mahabadi, S. Tsitkov, J. M. Cabelguen, and A. J. Ijspeert—published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Here, they discuss the challenges in creating robots specifically to study animal locomotion.

“Our previous robots assisted us test and confirm hypotheses on the interaction between the locomotor neuronal networks of the limbs and the spine to generate basic swimming and walking gaits,” said the researchers in their paper. “With Pleurobot, we demonstrate a create system that can enable-bodied studies of richer motor skills in salamanders. In particular, we are interested in how these richer motor skills can be received by extending our spinal cord versions with the addition of additional descending pathways and additional detailed limb central pattern generator networks.”

They’ve obviously refined both their study of the salamander’s anatomy and robotics to that end as they contend that this version comes incredibly close to replicating the movement of a real salamander, able-bodied to move as it may, and many importantly, of the limb area.

“The robot closely matches the behavior of the animal in terms of relative forward speeds and lateral displacements. Ground reaction forces during walking in addition resemble those of the animal,” say the researchers in their paper.


The researchers involved here obviously find excellent value in this particular skeletal system as they’ve continued to refine their tools for additional study. With the Pleurobot, they created much excellenter progress via 3D innovation to advantageous imitate the gait. And while it’s yet a challenging underbringing, with 27 motors integrated into the robot, they have a much advantageous advantage this time. According to the team, they discovered that with employing a excellenter degree of minimalism they were additional successful.

“What is new is quite our approach to assembling Pleurobot,” says Ijspeert. “It involves striking a balance between createing a simplified bone structure and replicating the salamander’s gait in three dimensions.”

In appearing closely at the create, the Pleurobot unquestionably appears a bit like a cross between a giant skeleton and a complete. The movement does appear quite authentic—enough so to manufacture a few of us a bit squeamish actually! Equipped with internal positional sensors, it can cover rocky terrain, and is in addition equipped with a camera and video feed. And while wearing a special dry suit, it in addition swims.

“Animal locomotion is an inherently complicated system,” says Kostas Karakasilliotis, who createed the early iterations of the Pleurobot. “Modern tools like cineradiography, 3D printing, and swift computing assist us draw nearer and nearer to knowing and replicating it.”


All involved in the project seem quite cheerful with their new results and progression in the study. They assume that due to the Pleurobot’s high end create, others endeavoring to study the rich motor skills of salamanders can excellently appreciate the create, as well as benefiting of it. Whilst many of us may not have at any time considered this preceding, there is in fact a vast amount to be learned of this easy skeletal structure along with such a wide range of movement. As one of our earliest ancestors, the salamander may be primitive indeed, but it offers up a excellent deal of data in regards to walking and swimming and how the spinal cord is stimulated to respond. Discuss this awe-inspiring innovation additional in the 3D Printed Salamander forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Sources/Images: EPFL]