Now, insect-like soft robots can be printed within minutes
Building a functional robot has always been a hard nut to crack, but a team of engineers, hailing from the University of California San Diego, is racing to change that into something very trivial. They have developed a method that can 3D print insect-like soft robots in just a matter of minutes and without requiring high-end parts and technologies. Here's all about it.
Technique to build 'flexoskeletons'
The novel method, as the researchers explain, revolves around starting with a soft body and adding rigid materials as "key components". These materials or so-called "flexoskeletons" are 3D-printed using flexible and thin polycarbonate sheets and used for adding rigidity only on specific parts of the body. This is different from conventional soft robots, which are built by adding soft materials on a solid body.
Functional robot can be prepped in just two hours
According to researchers, each flexoskeleton required for a soft robot can be printed in about 10 minutes and the whole thing could be assembled in nearly two hours. The cost of printing comes at less than $1 per individual part, which means the most expensive components in a project like this would be the battery, processor, and sensors integrated with the machine.
Ultimately, this could result in mass-production of soft robots
Eventually, the researchers hope to scale up their faster and affordable method of building soft robots to establish an automated assembly line for soft robots. This could allow mass-production of soft robots that could not just handle tasks on command but also be repaired with easily-made flexoskeletons, which could be kept readily available in a library of Lego-like components.
'Goal to make soft robots easier to build'
"We hope that these flexoskeletons will lead to the creation of a new class of soft, bioinspired robots. We want to make soft robots easier to build for researchers all over the world," said Nick Gravish, a UC San Diego professor and the paper's author.