Apr 12, 2018 | By David

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an independent agency of the federal government, has announced its intentions to acquire a new 3D printer. The Data61 branch is involved with various digital applications including software engineering, data analytics and cyber-systems, with a particular focus on environmental applications. It is hoping to use 3D printing technology to aid in its research programs. The 3D printer will be used as part of ongoing robotics research that is being carried out.

(a mollusc fitted with a bio-sensor)

"RASG (Data61's Robotics and Autonomous Systems group) has identified this printer as a key piece of infrastructure for continuing to develop our robotics capability," a RFT (request for tender) from the agency explains. "The range of parts that could be created on such a printer would bestow our robots with enhanced abilities beyond those currently attainable, and allow us to use our robots in more challenging scenarios. It will be a crucial tool for our engineering team as they continue to push the state of the art in applying 3D printing for custom, high-performance robots."

3D printing technology has been used increasingly in recent years to advance the field of soft robotics. This has enabled a range of highly specific problems to be solved, with 3D printing used to put together customized robots relatively quickly and cheaply. We’ve reported previously on a 3D printed soft robotic hand that can be controlled by brain signals, a 3D printed synthetic soft muscle that can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight, and many other innovative combinations of 3D printing and soft robotics.

Nature is often an inspiration for these projects, and Data61’s work with marine biology is an area where it sees the implementation of 3D printing being advantageous. One of its stated aims with the new 3D printer is to help with the development of sensors for integration into marine wildlife.

Data61 is gradually developing complex networks of bio-sensors, starting with a collaborative project with the University of Tasmania that is measuring various physiological parameters of oysters and other molluscs. This network will be capable of gathering important real-time data, which is then used as a part of digital agriculture programs to contribute towards improved stock, better animal welfare and more sustainable operations.

(all images, credit: Data61)

This is just one of the ways that Data61 is seeking to monitor environmental factors, as part of its mission to track climate change and promote bio-diversity. The organization has also developed special 3D scanners that can be used to navigate difficult environments, as well as a tracking device for bats that will enable ecologists to monitor the spread of diseases such as the deadly Hendra virus.

The 3D printer that Data61 is requesting is required to be a high-end, multi-material machine. It needs to be capable of printing non-standard materials, such as heat-resistant polymer skins and sensorised/composite soft body materials. The technology will need to be easy to integrate into various other 3D printing initiatives being carried out by the RASG, and it needs to print a large volume of production-quality parts. The successful contract is likely to begin on April 30.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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