Our current understanding of Robotics or Robots is sort of artificial people - they look like human and are capable of doing a lot of human work. Over the last ten years researchers has been developing soft robotics that could provide new capabilities.
Soft robotics are often made from soft and flexible materials, instead of the hard plastics and metals. Researchers say "a robot made from soft materials may mimic more closely the functions of a living organism such as an octopus or jellyfish."
Peter Walters and David McGoran from the 3D Printing Laboratory Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of West England, Bristol has been working on designing and fabricating a working tentacle-like active structure with 3D printing.
Unlike other soft robotics which are fabricated by casting silicone elastomer materials in 3D printed plastic molds, this tentacle-like structure is fabricated by 3D printing directly in a soft elastomer material. The active length of the tentacle is 55 mm, using Objet 3D printer and its TangoPlus Plus material researchers can print the structures and mechanisms directly and then dye it in blue. Then the SMA coil actuators are mounted within lumina running down the left and right side of the tentacle. 3D printing allows researchers to design complex shape in the computer without having to pay the costs of molding tools.
"The structure includes internal cavities, which are designed to accommodate shape memory alloy 'artificial muscles' that contract like a muscle when stimulated by an electric current. The combination of this soft structure together with 'smart' artificial muscles enables the tentacle to move in a life-like way."
Furthermore researchers went on to develop a flex sensor based analogous interface to test how to control the tentacle. The external structure of the control wand is fabricated by 3D printing in the same Objet material as the tentacle.
When the control wand is bent to the left, the resistance of one of the flex sensors increases, and when bent to
the right, the resistance of the other flex sensor increases. Movement of the tentacle-like "smart puppet" is controlled by the wand, via custom electronics and software.
In the future this work can be used in producing medical devices, soft robotics, interactive artworks and also children's toys.
Download the detailed paper "Digital fabrication of "smart" structures and mechanisms -creative applications in art and design " written by Peter Walters and David McGoran here.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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Reeb wrote at 10/9/2012 11:10:50 PM:
Really appreciate you sharing this post. Really thank you!