This 3D-Printed Robot Can Practically Walk Right Out Of The Printer

Posted: Apr 7 2016, 7:20am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 7 2016, 7:41am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

First 3D-Printed Robot Made of Both Solids and Liquids can 'Practically Walk Right Out of the Printer'
This 3-D hexapod robot moves via a single motor, which spins a crankshaft that pumps fluid to the robot’s legs. Besides the motor and battery, every component is printed in a single step with no assembly required. Among the robot’s key parts are several sets of “bellows” 3-D printed directly into its body. To propel the robot, the bellows uses fluid pressure that is translated into a mechanical force. Photo: Robert MacCurdy/MIT CSAIL
  • As an alternative to the bellows, the team also demonstrated they could 3-D print a gear pump that can produce continuous fluid flow.

A 3D hydraulic robot is a wonder to behold as it almost seems to have been given birth from the inner realm of the advanced printer. MIT creates first 3D-printed robot from both solids and liquids that can 'practically walk right out of the printer.'

A team of experts from MIT have employed a novel 3D printing technique to combine solids and liquids in order to create a hydraulic six legged robot.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) researchers reveal the first-ever technique for 3-D printing robots, that involves printing solid and liquid materials at the same time, in a new paper.

This interesting bot was created using a 3D printer that had commercial value. A series of bellows provided traction force to the mechanical legs and they were filled with liquid during the period of printing.

This is a progressive step in 3D printing since instead of creating individual components, whole active systems can be manufactured.

It was as if the creation of machines with functionality had just gotten a booster shot in the arm. All that was needed was to introduce a battery and a motor and voila!

A robot literally crawled out of the womb of the printer. It was 1.5 pounds in weight and was six inches in length. In the future, such robots could be sent in regions which were hazardous for humans to venture into.

The methodology of creating such robots has been termed printable hydraulics. It happens to be the most difficult of 3D printing methods to wrap one’s brain around.

“Our approach, which 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 printer.”

An inkjet printer throws droplets of liquid material into space. Later on high intensity UV light solidifies these liquid droplets. While these materials are very small to begin with, layer by layer they add up to create the object of choice.

Many different types of unique robots were built this way. One of them could pick up a delicate object like a ping pong ball. The other one was a hexapod robot.

The paper about the creation of this robot was recently accepted to this summer’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

This paper was co-written by MIT postdoc Robert MacCurdy and PhD candidate Robert Katzschmann, as well as Harvard University undergraduate Youbin Kim.

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