3D printing technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, with researchers constantly exploring new materials and techniques. In a recent breakthrough, scientists from ETH Zurich and a US start-up have developed a new technology that allows for the 3D printing of complex soft robots using slow-curing plastics.
Traditionally, 3D printing was limited to fast-curing plastics, restricting the range of materials that could be used. However, this new technique opens up possibilities for using slow-curing polymers that offer enhanced elastic properties, durability, and robustness. These polymers return to their original state much faster after bending, making them ideal for creating the elastic ligaments and delicate structures required in soft robots.
The researchers at ETH Zurich have successfully printed a robotic hand with bones, ligaments, and tendons made of different polymers in a single print. By combining soft, elastic, and rigid materials, they are able to create more durable and versatile robots in one go.
One major advancement in the printing process is the addition of a 3D laser scanner that checks each printed layer for surface irregularities in real time. Instead of scraping off these irregularities with a device, the technology adjusts the amount of material to be printed to compensate for any unevenness. This eliminates the need for post-print processing and allows for a more efficient and accurate printing process.
Soft robots made from these slow-curing polymers have significant advantages over traditional metal robots. Their softness reduces the risk of injury when working with humans, and they are better suited for handling delicate objects. This opens up new opportunities for soft robotic applications in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and automation.
Overall, this new 3D printing technique unlocks the potential for creating complex and durable soft robots with improved functionality and safety. As researchers continue to innovate in this field, we can expect to see even more advancements and applications in the future.
Q: What is the main advantage of using slow-curing polymers in 3D printing?
A: Slow-curing polymers have enhanced elastic properties and return to their original state much faster after bending, making them ideal for creating elastic ligaments in soft robots.
Q: How does the new 3D printing technology compensate for surface irregularities?
A: A 3D laser scanner checks each printed layer for surface irregularities, and a feedback mechanism adjusts the amount of material to be printed in real time to compensate for any unevenness.
Q: What are the advantages of soft robots over traditional metal robots?
A: Soft robots have a reduced risk of injury when working with humans, and they are better suited for handling delicate objects.