Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
    Innovative 3D Inkjet Printer Revolutionizes Soft Robotics Manufacturing

    Researchers have introduced a groundbreaking 3D inkjet printing system that leverages computer vision to streamline the integration of soft, elastic, and rigid materials in the field of soft robotics. This cutting-edge 3D printer utilizes thousands of small nozzles to deposit resin droplets onto the printing surface. Unlike traditional 3D printers, where droplets are subsequently smoothed and cured using UV light, this new system incorporates real-time adjustments enabled by computer vision.

    By dynamically adjusting the amount of resin deposited by each nozzle, the advanced printer ensures that the desired areas possess an accurate and precise amount of material, without the need for physical contact. This innovative approach allows for the utilization of slow-curing polymers, renowned for their exceptional elastic properties, durability, and robustness, surpassing the capabilities of fast-curing alternatives.

    Consequently, researchers have successfully employed this technology to fabricate a complete robotic hand featuring distinct polymers for its bones, ligaments, and tendons in a single printing session. The availability of slow-curing thiolene polymers has significantly expanded the range of possibilities, as they exhibit superior elastic performance and rapid recovery after bending compared to their fast-curing polyacrylates counterparts.

    Thomas Buchner, a PhD student at ETH Zurich, emphasizes the significance of this breakthrough, stating, “We wouldn’t have been able to create this hand using the fast-curing polyacrylates we have relied on for 3D printing until now.” These soft robotic structures have undeniable advantages over traditional metal-based robots. Due to their flexibility, they present a reduced risk of injury when working with humans and excel in delicate object handling contexts.

    The study documenting these technological advancements and their transformative impact on soft robotics manufacturing can be found in the renowned scientific journal Nature.


    What is soft robotics?
    Soft robotics is a subfield of robotics that focuses on the development of flexible and compliant robotic systems, often utilizing soft and elastic materials. These robots are designed to mimic the adaptability and dexterity of natural organisms and possess various advantages, including enhanced safety and versatility.

    How does the new 3D inkjet printing system work?
    The new 3D inkjet printing system leverages computer vision technology to scan the printing surface and make real-time adjustments. The system adjusts the amount of resin deposited by each nozzle to ensure the precise distribution of materials, enabling the incorporation of slow-curing polymers with superior elastic properties.

    What are the advantages of soft robots over traditional metal-based robots?
    Soft robots offer several advantages over traditional metal-based robots. Due to their flexibility and compliance, they pose less risk of injury when working closely with humans. Additionally, their ability to handle fragile goods is significantly superior, making soft robots ideal for delicate applications in various industries.