by • April 5, 2016 • No Comments
Robots have a immense future, but if a way can’t be discovered to manufacture them rapidly, cheaply, and in sizeable numbers, that future may stay precisely that. To that end, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has come up with a new way to manufacture soft, hydraulically-powered robots in one step via commercial 3D printing equipment that can print solid and liquid parts simultaneously.
The problem with the anticipated robotic industrial revolution is that robots tend to be quite harsh machines that require a lot of assembly. This is not just time-consuming and a general bottleneck, but it manufactures it quite complex when most robots are requireed for a specific task. 3D printing can assist, but so long as it is confined to createing just discrete parts, its utility is just limited. What the CSAIL engineers are working on is a way to manufacture harsh robots without the require to assemble them.
Employing a commercial 3D printing device, the CSAIL team has come up with a novel technique for printing fully-functional robots in one go. The thought is that by printing active, integrated systems instead of static parts, it can be possible to turn it into bespoke create templates that can create various sizes, shapes, and functions on demand.
MIT says that the key is what the team calls “printable hydraulics.” This means that instead of printing or otherwise fabricating discrete parts and and so createing them, a 3D inkjet printing device with multiple printing heads forms solid, flexible, assist, and liquid parts at the same time. For the system, individual droplets 20 to 30 microns in diameter are deposited layer-by-layer to create up legs, gears, pumps, and bellows, in a variety of solid and liquid substances.
These substances are created up of a photopolymer that is cured by high-intensity UV light, or of liquid polyethylene glycol as a hydraulic fluid, that the printing device has been adjusted to use. The eight printing heads allow the printing device to deposit various materials future to one another with adequate resolution to print harsh, pre-filled fluidic channels.
The team says that the system overcomes the messy nature of printing with liquids by via various test geometries and resolutions to manufacture certain that the liquids are introduced at the appropriate times to fill the cavities properly, and that they don’t interfere with the hardening of the solid components. The finished robot just requires a battery and a motor stuck on after printing.
The CSAIL team has may already applied the concept in a number of test robots. One is a tiny six-legged robot powered by 12 hydraulic actuators within the body. It weighs of 1.5 lb (680 g) and is less than six inches (15 cm) long. It’s powered by a DC motor running a crankshaft that feeds a set of fluid-filled bellows pumps, that move the legs. One other model uses a 3D-printed gear pump for continuous flow.
In addition, the team has created a soft silicone-rubber robotic manipulator (seen at a lower place) for the Baxter robot, that was fabricated in less time than a conventional one may require. Today, the six-legged prototype robot takes 22 hours to print, but the team believes that with additional high end printing equipment it should be possible to improve on this time.
According to MIT, the printing system has a number of applications. It can not just manufacture robots rapidly and cheaply, but in addition manufactures it possible to diversify the create in minutes for specific purposes with fewer electronic components. This is especially useful in high-radiation areas where robots have a quite limited lifespan and require to be replaced regularly.
“Building robots does not have to be as time-consuming and labor-intensive as it is been in the past,” says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus. “3D printing offers a way forward, enabling us to instantly create harsh, functional, hydraulically-powered robots that can be put to immediate use.”
The CSAIL team’s results can be presented in a paper at the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).
The video at a lower place shows the printable robots in action.
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