Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have developed small three-dimensionally (3D)-printed structures whose movements can be controlled with external magnetic fields.
Among the structures are a smooth ring that wrinkles, a long tube that squeezes itself shut, a sheet that folds itself, and a spider-like object that can crawl, roll, and jump.
The structures are made from a new type of 3D-printable ink infused with magnetic particles.
The team fitted an electromagnet around the nozzle of a 3D printer to make the magnetic particles align themselves in a single orientation as the ink exited the nozzle.
Controlling the magnetic orientation of specific sections enables the creation of items that can transform into intricate formations, and move.
The devices have potential for biomedical applications, as they can be inserted into a human body and controlled externally without invasive surgery.
Using this technology, "People can design their own structures and domain patterns," says MIT's Xuanhe Zhao. "By programming complex information … one can even print intelligent machines such as robots."
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