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Printable robots in development

Printable robots in development

“Long
before it’s in a papers”

May 31, 2014

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Printable robots in development

May 31, 2014

Courtesy of MIT
and World
Science
staff

En­gi­neers are work­ing on ro­bots that can be as­sem­bled from tools done by 3-D print­ers—and a new­est de­signs can be baked, too.

Although a work is pre­lim­i­nary, in dual new pa­pers, re­search­er Dan­iela Rus of Mas­sa­chu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy and col­leagues dis­cuss print­a­ble ro­botic com­po­nents that, when heat­ed, au­to­mat­ic­ally overlay in­to de­sired con­figura­t­ions. Rus’ organisation al­so pre­sented a re­sults during a In­terna­t­ional Con­fer­ence on Robotics and Au­toma­t­ion of a In­sti­tute of Elec­tri­cal and Elec­tron­ics En­gi­neers.

One pa­per de­scribes a sys­tem that takes a dig­it­al spe­cif­ica­t­ion of a 3-D shape, afterwards gen­er­ates a two-di­men­sion­al pat­terns that would let a square of plas­tic
overlay itself into that shape. The oth­er pa­per de­scribes how to build com­po­nents from self-fold­ing, laser-cut ma­te­ri­als. The re­search­ers uncover de­signs for a elec­tro­me­chanical “mus­cles” that en­a­ble ro­bot movements—com­po­nents famous as re­sis­tors, in­duc­tors, and ca­pac­i­tors, sen­sors and ac­tu­a­tors.

“We have this large dream… where we can spec­i­fy, ‘I wish a ro­bot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I wish a ro­bot that will purify a floor,’ and… we ac­tu­ally gen­er­ate a work­ing de­vice,” Rus said. That’s a prolonged approach away. But some of in­i­tial work to­ward that al­so led to a crea­t­ion of “these folded elec­tron­ics,” she added.
The pa­pers also build on re­search by Rus with MIT’s Er­ik De­maine ex­plor­ing how ori­ga­mi could be blending to cre­ate recon­figurable ro­bots. 

The pivotal dif­fer­ence in a new work, pronounced Shuhei Miyashita, a post­doc­tor­al re­search­er in Rus’ lab and one of her co-authors on both pa­pers, is a tech­nique for pre­cisely con­trol­ling how a heat­ed piece folds. Miyashita sand­wiches a piece of pol­y­vi­nyl chlo­ride (PVC) be­tween dual films of tough pol­y­es­ter full of slits of dif­fer­ent widths. When heat­ed, a PVC con­tracts, and a slits close. Where edges of a pol­y­es­ter film press adult opposite any oth­er, they de­form a PVC.

But pro­duc­ing a slits is not as sim­ple as only over­lay­ing them on an ori­ga­mi double pat­tern and ad­just­ing a widths ac­cord­ing­ly, Rus said. “Y­ou’re do­ing this unequivocally com­pli­cat­ed glob­al con­trol that moves eve­ry edge” during a same time, she
said. The mo­tions “ac­tu­ally in­ter­fere with any oth­er,” that has to be tak­en in­to ac­count.

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