Boffins working on 3D printed biologically inspired robots with soft or partially soft bodies

According to a report published recently in the journal Science, scientists have developed a new 3D-printed robot that comes with both rigid and soft body parts. In the report, scientists from the Harvard University have written that this new robot can be handled by humans easily and possesses the ability to jump without being injured.

One of the most remarkable facts about this robot is that it got 3D printed in just a single printing session. The robot comes powered by oxygen and butane and had three tilting pneumatic legs. It uses these legs for controlling its jumps and for landing. By adding some soft parts to the robot, the manufacturer has increased its overall lifespan significantly.

The researchers didn’t shy away from revealing the reason behind picking 3D-printing for crafting this special robot. According to the researchers, it would have been difficult for them to create a functionally-graded robot using the conventional molding-based manufacturing process. This is because every time there will be a change in the design of the robot, they will need a new mold for completing the manufacturing process.

All these information was shared by the first co-author of the study Nicholas Bartlett. Bartlett is a graduate researcher of bio-inspired robotics at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

Donald Ingber of Wyss Institute, when talking about use of 3D-printing technology for making robots, said that this ability of fabricating soft robots made from gradient materials which emulate the natural rigidity of living structures will allow mass production of robots. According to Ingber, the robots made using this method will integrate easily with people in workplaces, homes and operating rooms.

So, what exactly these 3D-printed robots will be able to do? They possess the ability to pass through the most constricted spaces, jump over obstacles, and will also be able to perform impressively when used in unpredictable terrains. Here, the term “unpredictable terrains” is referring to places that are extremely dangerous or inaccessible for humans; an example includes war zones, places hit by natural disaster and so on.

These bio-inspired robots are more resilient and safer than the rigid droids due to blending of softer materials. Its rigid core contains key components such as air compressor and battery. Its softer parts, on the other hand, include its legs.