3-D Printed Robots Are Getting Solid and Liquid Insides Thanks to Scientists at MIT
MIT CSAIL

3-D Printed Robots Are Getting Solid and Liquid Insides Thanks to Scientists at MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL, have developed a technique that allows for them to 3-D print robots with both solid and liquid materials. "Printable hydraulics" is a breakthrough in 3-D printing because it sets a precedent for functional machines that don't require extra assembly, which is great news for lazy people yearning for the day that robots can do their chores anyone who needs a robot to complete a complex task.

Read more: It's Finally Possible to 3-D Print Human Tissue — Here's How It Could Change Medicine

"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 printer," Daniela Rus, director of CSAIL and one of the co-authors of the study, said.

Adam Conner-Simons explains that liquids were a "big hurdle" when it came to 3-D printing. "Printing liquids is a messy process, which means that most approaches require an additional post-printing step such as melting it away or having a human manually scrape it clean," Conner-Simons wrote for MIT. "That step makes it hard for liquid-based methods to be employed for factory-scale manufacturing."

With CSAIL's technique, the 3-D printer's inkjet creates layers by incrementally depositing droplets of material that are thinner than the width of a human hair. Each layer can contain both photopolymer (a solid material) and non-curing material (which remain liquid); the parts of a robot that should be solid are then exposed to a high-intensity UV light. 

Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube

Additionally, this technique allows for 3-D printers to print softer, more flexible materials, which can be used to create bellow actuators allowing for hydraulics movements and mobile parts.

Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube

In the same vein, softer materials can be used to create "fingers" capable of gripping.

Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube
Source: MIT CSAIL/YouTube

Watch CSAIL's video demo below:

Source: YouTube

h/t Wired

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