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First-Ever 3d Printed Robots Made of Both Solids and Liquids

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A hexapod robot created by a three-dimensional printer.

This hexapod robot moves via a single motor, which spins a crankshaft that pumps fluid to the robots legs. Besides the motor and battery, every component was printed in a single step on a three-dimensional printer, with no assembly required.

Credit: Robert MacCurdy/MIT CSAIL

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed "printable hydraulics," which they say is the first-ever technique for three-dimensional (3D) printing robots involving simultaneously printing solid and liquid materials.

The researchers say printable hydraulics enables users to automatically 3D-print dynamic robots in a single step, with no assembly required, using a commercially available printer. They demonstrated the concept by 3D-printing a six-legged robot that can crawl via 12 hydraulic pumps embedded within it; they also 3D printed robotic parts that can be used on existing platforms.

With printable hydraulics, an inkjet printer deposits individual droplets of material, which are each 20 to 30 microns in diameter. The printer proceeds layer by layer from the bottom up, depositing different materials in different parts for each one. The printer then uses high-intensity ultraviolet light to solidify all of the materials, except for the liquids.

Inkjet printing "gives us very fine control of material placement, which is what allows us to print complex, pre-filled fluidic channels," says MIT researcher Robert MacCurdy.

From MIT News
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