Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Squishy Robots

View as: Print Mobile App Share:
A 3D-printed wax-coated flexible scaffold being compressed in a temperature-controlled chamber.

Researchers have developed a material capable of switching between hard and soft states.

Credit: MIT News

Researchers at several institutions have jointly developed a phase-change material built from wax and foam capable of switching between hard and soft states that could be used to construct inexpensive robots. Robots made from the material could be used to execute surgical procedures or participate in search-and-rescue operations.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Anette Hosoi and former grad student Nadia Cheng worked with researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and Stony Brook University to develop the material as part of the Chemical Robots program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA is interested in developing "squishy" robots that can squeeze through tight spaces and then expand again to move around a given area.

The researchers coated a foam structure with wax, which enables it to shift between squishy and rigid states. "A lot of materials innovation can be very expensive, but in this case you could just buy really low-cost polyurethane foam and some wax from a craft store," Cheng says.

A three-dimensionally printed version of the foam lattice structure was fabricated and tested, and was shown to be more amenable to analysis than the polyurethane foam.

Hosoi is exploring the use of other unconventional materials for robotics, including magnetorheological and electrorheological fluids.

From MIT News
View Full Article


Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


No entries found

Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account