Pushing the envelope a little further, a group of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab has developed an ingenious method to 3D fully functional robots. The robots, which are made from both solids and liquids, require just a single battery and motor; they can then practically walk right off the printing table.
The team utilized a process they call “printable hydraulics” for the printing process, and hope to make a breakthrough in rapidly fabricating machines. For the process, researchers used a 3D Inkjet printer for dispersing materials measuring half the human hair. When printing the structure, the printer puts photopolymer material on the surface of the print, hardening it with a UV light while leaving the liquid portions untouched.
While building robots is largely a labour-intensive and time-consuming process otherwise, 3D printing offers a break from it. But, during the process, the researchers were not able to find a way of incorporating robust force-transmission elements into a 3D-printed object. After a lot of trial and error, they were able to place a useful liquid/solid combination for creating a functional robot in one go. The process produced a six-legged robot that can walk using the power of 12 hydraulic pumps printed inside it.
The 3D printing process lasted for about 22 hours. The team subsequently installed a battery and motor inside the robot which then allowed it to move on its own. MIT now plans to expand the scope of its innovative hydraulic printing technology and improve on the method to cut down the time required for the process.
Previously, 3D printing was only done with solid materials but the introduction of liquids into the process makes complex designs possible while cutting down on the time required.
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