Robots With 3D Printed Shock Absorbing Skin

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL, put out a paper recently about an interesting advance in 3D printing. Naturally, being the computer science and AI lab the paper had a robotic bend to it. In summary, they can 3D print a robot with a rubber skin of arbitrarily varying stiffness. The end goal? Shock absorbing skin!

They modified an Objet printer to print simultaneously using three materials. One is a UV curing solid. One is a UV curing rubber, and the other is an unreactive liquid. By carefully depositing these in a pattern they can print a material with any property they like. In doing so they have been able to print mono body robots that, simply put, crash into the ground better.  There are other uses of course, from joints to sensor housings. There’s more in the paper.

We’re not sure how this compares to the Objet’s existing ability to mix flexible resins together to produce different Shore ratings. Likely this offers more seamless transitions and a wider range of material properties. From the paper it also appears to dampen better than the alternatives. Either way, it’s an interesting advance and approach. We wonder if it’s possible to reproduce on a larger scale with FDM.

9 thoughts on “Robots With 3D Printed Shock Absorbing Skin

  1. Meta-materials is one area where 3D printing is particularly valuable and not prone to fads.

    Given the various interest of HAD writers it is surprising to me that nobody has written up a piece on 3D printed RF antennas. I suggest you guys take a look at the latest edition of the Springer Handbook of Antenna Technologies. DOI 10.1007/978-981-4560-44-3

    1. Too bad metamaterials themselves are currently a gimmick and a fad with lots of theoretical potential, but very few practical applications, and part of that is because they’re so difficult to manufacture even with 3D printers.

  2. Unless something very interesting happens when it’s combined with the other materials, the UV reactive material is going to degrade after it cures when exposed to UV. This is the fatal flaw when it comes to UV reactive materials.

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