Research by the U.S. Army has merged two trends, 3D printing and modeling robots after animals, in the design of self-sealing suction cups to allow robots to grasp and pick up objects.

Based on the suckers on the tentacles of an octopus, the invention could have applications for robots that can be used to replace humans to perform dangerous tasks and pick up and move objects and/or debris, according to Army scientists.

The research team created a self-sealing suction cup with a plug that sits in the suction inlet. When the cup’s pump turns on, the plug of any cup not in contact with an object seals itself by sucking in, which increases the pressure differential, thus strengthening the suction capability of the cups grasping an object.  Once the design was complete, researchers used 3D printing to rapid prototype the suction cups.

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Army Uses 3D-Printed Tentacles to Help Robots Manipulate Objects