Menu
With this new 3D printing technique, robots can 'practically walk right out of the printer'

With this new 3D printing technique, robots can 'practically walk right out of the printer'

Eventually, the system 'will hardly need any human input at all,' one researcher says

Every part of this 3D hexapod robot was printed in a single step, except its motor and battery. Credit: Robert MacCurdy/MIT CSAIL

Every part of this 3D hexapod robot was printed in a single step, except its motor and battery. Credit: Robert MacCurdy/MIT CSAIL

Imagine you could use a standard 3D printer to create your next robotic assistant. Just snap in a motor and battery, and it's ready to go.

That's precisely the scenario made possible by a new 3D printing technique developed at MIT.

Liquids have long been a challenge for 3D printing, and they're necessary for hydraulic devices like moving robots. On Wednesday, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) announced what they call the first-ever technique for 3D printing robots that can print solid and liquid materials at the same time.

That means it's possible to print dynamic robots in a single step, using a commercially available 3D printer.

"Our approach, which we call ‘printable hydraulics,’ is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines,” said CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who oversaw the project and co-wrote a paper describing the results. “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.”

The paper will be presented next month at the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Sweden.

Most approaches to printing liquids have required additional post-printing steps such as manual cleaning, making the liquid step tricky to include in factory-scale manufacturing. With the new technique, an inkjet printer deposits individual droplets of material that are each 20 to 30 microns in diameter -- less than half the width of a human hair. The printer deposits different materials layer by layer and then uses high-intensity UV light to solidify the non-liquid portions.

“Inkjet printing lets us have eight different print heads deposit different materials adjacent to one another, all at the same time,” said MIT postdoc Robert MacCurdy, a coauthor on the project. “It gives us very fine control of material placement, which is what allows us to print complex, pre-filled fluidic channels.”

To demonstrate the concept, the researchers printed a six-legged robot that can crawl using 12 hydraulic pumps embedded within its body. It weighs about 1.5 pounds (680 grams) and is less than 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. A single DC motor spins a crankshaft that pumps fluid to the robot’s legs. Aside from its motor and power supply, every component is printed in a single step, with no assembly required.

With modifications, even existing multi-material 3D printers could use this technique, the researchers say.

The technique allows for a customizable design template to create robots of different sizes, shapes and functions. Potential applications could include disaster relief in dangerous environments.

“If you have a crawling robot that you want to have step over something larger, you can tweak the design in a matter of minutes,” MacCurdy said. “In the future, the system will hardly need any human input at all; you can just press a few buttons, and it will automatically make the changes.”


Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags 3d printing3D printer

Featured

Slideshows

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

The channel came together for another round of After Hours, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and partners descending on The Jefferson in Auckland. Photos by Maria Stefina.​

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours
Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Emerging start-up Consegna has officially launched its cloud offerings in the New Zealand market, through a kick-off event held at Seafarers Building in Auckland.​ Founded in June 2016, the Auckland-based business is backed by AWS and supported by a global team of cloud specialists, leveraging global managed services partnerships with Rackspace locally.

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland
Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honoured its top performing partners across the channel in Australia and New Zealand, recognising innovation and excellence on both sides of the Tasman. Revealed under the Vivid lights in Sydney, Intalock claimed the coveted Partner of the Year 2017 (Pacific) award, with Data#3 acknowledged for 12 months of strong growth across the market. Meanwhile, Datacom took home the New Zealand honours, with Global Storage and Insentra winning service provider and consulting awards respectively. Dicker Data was recognised as the standout distributor of the year, while Hitachi Data Systems claimed the alliance partner award. Photos by Bob Seary.

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners
Show Comments