Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have achieved a remarkable milestone in robotics by creating a robotic hand with bones, ligaments, and tendons using 3D printing. This groundbreaking development was made possible through the integration of 3D printing, laser scanning, and a feedback mechanism. The team utilized a new technology that enabled them to print all the hand’s components simultaneously, rather than assembling them separately. This innovative method has opened up a world of possibilities for constructing highly intricate and durable robots.
Professor Robert Katzschmann, the leader of the research project, highlighted the significance of this achievement. “We wouldn’t have been able to create this hand using the fast-curing polyacrylates we’ve employed in 3D printing so far,” he explained. This breakthrough not only represents a major advancement in 3D printing but also in the field of soft robotics. Unlike traditional robots made of metal, which have limitations, robots made of soft materials, like the newly developed hand, offer several advantages.
Soft robotics have the advantage of being less harmful when working alongside humans and are better suited for handling delicate objects. This is particularly relevant in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare, where robots frequently interact with humans or handle fragile goods. The development of this realistic and human-like robotic hand marks a significant step forward in ensuring a safer and more efficient collaboration between humans and machines.
The details of the project are presented in a paper titled “Vision-controlled jetting for composite systems and robots,” published in the scientific journal Nature. The paper emphasizes the long-standing human endeavor of recreating complex structures and functions of natural organisms using synthetic materials. The researchers assert that their automated, scalable, and high-throughput manufacturing process provides a breakthrough in creating high-resolution, functional multi-material systems.
This remarkable advancement in robotics has the potential to revolutionize various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and even consumer electronics. With the ability to construct durable and intricate robots, we can anticipate safer human-machine interactions and enhanced capabilities for handling delicate objects. The integration of 3D printing and soft materials in robotics opens up new avenues to explore the full potential of machines in our daily lives.
What is soft robotics?
Soft robotics is a subfield of robotics that focuses on designing and constructing robots using soft and flexible materials. Unlike traditional robots made of rigid components, soft robots are more adaptable, safer to work alongside humans, and better suited for handling delicate objects.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects by layering materials based on a digital model. It revolutionizes traditional manufacturing by enabling the production of complex and customized objects with a high degree of accuracy.