Dec 20, 2015 | By Benedict

Researchers at MIT have developed a novel method for the 3D printing of hydraulic devices. Their research paper shows how a regular 3D printer can be modified to achieve such ends.

Hydraulic machines, which use fluids to distribute pressure, are used in a variety of applications, such as car braking systems and heavy lifting machinery. With the use of hydraulic components, small forces applied to a small areas can turn into large forces over large areas, making them an invaluable engineering tool.

One field in which hydraulic components are frequently used is that of robotics, but the complex system of pressurized piping required for robotic machines is often treated as a system independent of the rest of the device. That means that the incorporation of hydraulic components into a robotic device tends to be long and arduous, whilst increasing the need for regular maintenance of the device.

A team of MIT researchers at MIT, led by mechanical engineer Robert MacCurdy, has come up with a clever method for incorporating hydraulics directly into robotic devices using 3D printing. For the first time ever, hydraulic machines can be designed and built in a single step. “Until now there has been no means of incorporating robust, high-performance force-transmission elements directly into a 3D printed part,” the researchers explained.

Many advanced 3D printers are equipped with multiple extruders, which allows them to 3D print in a variety of materials at the same time, in the same print. This means that 3D prints can be created which incorporate several colors and materials, possessing both rigid areas and flexible areas. The concept presented by the MIT researchers involves the extrusion of a non-curable liquid, as well as other regular 3D printing materials. Whilst the regular materials will harden into a solid part, the non-curable liquid will not.

There are several important advantages to this unique method. A fluid-filled piping system can be 3D printed in one go, eliminating the need for any further assembly. The resulting closed circuits are ideal force-transmitting systems.

The team of researchers used its 3D printing method to produce several hydraulic devices, including a functional gear pump. The 3D printed pump consisted of a pair of enmeshed cogs within a tube, which move trapped fluid as they rotate. A set of teeth on each cog allows fluid to be pumped in one direction without it flowing back the other way.

As well as the 3D printed gear pump, MacCurdy and co. were able to produce a 3D printed bellows actuator, able to transmit force through the 3D printed liquid, and a set of fluid-actuated grippers capable of safely picking up delicate objects like eggs.

For those looking to 3D print their own hydraulic devices, the researchers recommend using a high-end 3D printer such as the Stratasys Objet260 Connex, MacCurdy’s 3D printer of choice. Detailed instructions for modifying such a 3D printer into a hydraulic robot building machine are given in the researchers’ paper, “Printable Hydraulics: A Method for Fabricating Robots by 3D Co-Printing Solids and Liquids.”



Posted in 3D Printer



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Jorge Lamadrid, PMP wrote at 12/26/2015 2:15:41 PM:

Thank you all in 3ders for your goog projects! Regards

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