3D Printing Robots on Demand

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed an approach for printing dynamic robots, a real step toward having “a robot technically walk itself out of the printer.

The key is a technique they developed that enables the simultaneous printing of solids and liquids. The team calls this “printable hydraulics.” Current technology allows only the printing of solid components, which means the body of the robot can be printed, but the actuation systems must be developed, assembled, and installed separately.

3-D printed hexapod robot developed

This 3-D printed 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. (Source: http://www.csail.mit.edu)

This new method enables the complete encapsulation of liquids that can be enclosed in the body of the robot during the printing process. Using an off-the-shelf inkjet 3D printer modified by the team, the robot is built layer-by-layer from the bottom up by depositing individual droplets of materials 20 to 30 microns in diameter each. Then, high-intensity UV light solidifies all of the materials except for the liquids.

There are many advantages to using this technique to create robots, including flexibility in design after a template is made (to customize the robot for the task it will be used for); speed; and lower cost.

>>Read more by Nancy S. Giges, ASME.org, October 2016; or, from MIT CSAIL News