Dec 25, 2017

Japanese designer Hiroshi Sugihara has created something truly extraordinary using 3D printing technologies: a series of animal-inspired robots that can walk like real creatures. And while by this description that may not sound that impressive at first (we’ve seen countless robotic animals in films and more), what if we told you that each 3D printed animal was created in a single print and was powered by a single motor. Pretty cool, huh?

The “bio-like” robots were developed by Sugihara at the University of Tokyo Prototyping & Design Laboratory with the help of project director Shunji Yamanaka and additive manufacturing researcher Keisuke Tanigawa. As one can imagine, printing a skeletal-like robot in one go required extensive design planning, and likely many prototypes. The results that we see now, however, are really quite amazing.

As Sugihara explains of his Ready to Crawl project: “In this project I tried to make robots which were born in completed state like creatures by making all parts, excluding a DC motor, assembled by AM as one machine.” That is, inspired by actual skeletal structures, Sugihara set out to create complex, fully assembled structures which could move in a organic-seeming way with the installation of a single motor.

Once the fully assembled CAD model was complete, the designer sent it to a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer, where it was printed, layer by layer, out of a bed of nylon powder material. Once printed, Sugihara simply had to remove all the extra nylon powder, and install a single DC motor in the designated spot, which allowed the print to come to life, so to speak.

To make the small robots move in a natural way, the designer used a novel transmission mechanism called 3Dimensional Cam. Amazingly, using this original mechanism, Sugihara was able to create a number of different animal robots, each inspired by a different type of movement. From the sliding shell creature called Ohmu, to the wriggling lizard called Tokage, to the scorpion like Yadokari, to the prickly and rotatable Radiolaria, to the scuttling Disk, each 3D printed creature can move in a unique way using the same central 3Dimensional Cam mechanism.

While the project is still in its prototyping stage, the results of it so far are already impressive, and we can only imagine where Sugihara’s innovative work and approach will lead him next. The ability to not only print articulated animal inspired structures, but to install a single motor and have them move in a really organic seeming way, is a feat we can get behind. In fact, we wouldn’t even mind having these types of crawlers around the house!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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