In what could be a new stage in additive manufacturing, researchers are moving closer to being able to produce a fully functioning, moving, operating bot. In a new breakthrough, scientists have taken a commercial 3D printer (Stratasys Objet350 Connex3) and they have succeeded in embedding complex sensors inside robotic limbs and grippers.
This could be the path towards 3D printing robots in areas without any human supervision, such as on baes located on the Moon or by a rover on Mars. Due to the complexities of 3D printing and the potential damage to the sensors required for robots, the current focus is with soft robotics (constructing robots from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms).
While this stage of the quest towards 3D printing robots om demand has been achieved, the technologists, from
University of California – San Diego, are still finding that the materials commonly available for 3D printing require further improvement to ensure that the robots is fully functional. in other words, the technology stands ahead of the quality of the materials available.
The process of producing the report is captured in the following video:
The best available material is a black resin which is required for the manufacture of the complex sensors. These are embedded within robotic parts constructed from a clear polymer. For 3D printed robotic to improve the ability for the robot to be stretched and for the sensors to still function is necessary, and this will require a further examination of the types of materials used.
The research to date has been published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and the research paper is titled “Design Considerations for 3D Printed, Soft, Multimaterial Resistive Sensors for Soft Robotics.”