Scientists at ETH Zürich have made significant progress in the field of 3D printing by unveiling an incredibly realistic robotic hand. The hand is composed of flexible polymers that mimic bones, ligaments, and tendons, which opens up a world of potential applications for this technology.
In the past, the idea of having a 3D printer in our homes seemed like science fiction. However, the development of this technology has rapidly advanced in recent years, enabling the printing of a wide range of objects, from food to medical devices.
Previously, 3D printing was limited to fast-curing plastics. However, researchers at ETH Zürich, in collaboration with Inkbit, a US-based startup, have developed new methods that allow for the use of slow-curing plastics. This advancement enables the printing of objects containing multiple materials and the combination of soft, elastic, and rigid materials into more complex shapes than ever before.
The team overcame the challenge of printing with slow-curing plastics by using lasers to perform a 3D scan of each layer. This scanning process allows the machine to calibrate and take into account any irregularities, eliminating the need for surface smoothing.
The unique construction of this robotic hand offers several advantages. Notably, soft material robots, like this hand, are safer to work with humans and are better suited to handle fragile objects. This new technology has the potential to revolutionize various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and robotics.
The team behind this innovation has also created other groundbreaking inventions using similar 3D printing techniques, such as tendon-driven hands, walking manipulators, and even pumps that mimic a human heart.
By perfecting this technique, the researchers plan to explore additional applications and offer this service to Inkbit’s customers. This breakthrough in 3D printing not only showcases the incredible potential of this technology but also highlights its relevance in scientific investigations, complex prototyping, and industrial innovation.
(Source: <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05083-8)