For the past couple of years, 3D printing has become a great manmade utility and discovery for many people who are using this form of advanced and futuristic technology. Doctors have already used 3D printing to make organs for patients, people have made kitchen utensils, phone cases, food, and much much more! Recently, a group of researchers and engineers at the university of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have been using 3D printing in a different manner. They have designed and made 3D printed robots. They believe that designing and using 3D printed robots allows faster complex designs and models, and is much affordable.
The robot may look like a child's toy, because of its rare looking design, and the fact that it is made of plastic. This robot is one foot wide and one foot long according to news.mit.edu.com. It took 22 hours to create this six-legged modified robot, weighing 1.5 pounds, costing a little bit more than $100,000 in total, according to Nola.com. In particular, for the robot to be able to move, what makes these NOT your average robot, is that these are hydraulic pumped robots, meaning that they use liquids to give it power. In this case, the hydraulics is like the motor that is what makes the robot have function. These robots also have pneumatic tanks, which are basically air pumps that give it power, instead of water. They are solid and liquid material produced. In aspects of what parts this robot uses in order to move, it has inserted a simple single battery, a motor, sensors, and a mini tactic computer. What is interesting about this robot is that since it is 3D printed, there is no need for complicated assembly and looking for parts like usual robots.
MIT used a Stratasys Objet260 Connex 3D printer in order to printout their robot. Since the design that MIT had in mind was for their robot to be hydraulic powered, the 3D printer they used wasn't necessarily made to accept and liquids, only laserjet plastic cartridges. According to Washingtonpost.com, they state that what MIT did was, "The researchers essentially hacked the machine, inserting a different computer chip in the cartridge holding their liquid of choice — the machine’s cleaning fluid — so that the 3D printer thought it was actually printing plastic, not liquid."
According to the MIT video on Nola.com, some 3D printed parts that is accommodated into the robot are: "Gear pumps to move hydraulic fluid, bellows actuators to move the robot's legs, and a rotating crankshaft to actuate the hydraulic transmission." And yes, all these parts were 3D printed.
During the process of the three-dimensional printing, it is printed in terms of layers, starting from the bottom to the way up, and there were some certain textures and structures of the robot that had to be printed a certain way. For example, as seen on the image above provided by the official MIT test video, the color yellow, represented the 'support' or the fundamental base of the robot, the strong structure that holds everything up. The green color indicates the flexible and bendable texture of the plastic from the robot. The dark green indicates the rigid structure of the robot, the unbendable parts, that most likely if you bend it all the way, it could snap! Lastly, the purple color indicates the liquid printed parts, which began as like a 'melted' plastic, and so then it got hard into a solid plastic.
Nola.com clearly states from the words of Daniela Rus (professor at MIT) saying, "It makes a big difference in what kind of machines you can make," said professor Daniela Rus, who oversaw the project. "If you can make complex robots really fast -- print them like you print a piece of paper -- you can imagine not having to worry so much about whether you lost your robot." It seems like Daniela Rus thinks that 3D printing is just as easy and can be made accurately possible just as printing something on a piece of paper. From what Danile Rus is also saying, it seems like she is trying to state that you can do MORE than just 3D print regular ordinary items, but you can do find more insane things of advanced technology.
Now, when more and more people later-on in the future have the ability to get ahold of this 3D printing technology, people will be designing and creating all sorts of things, and one of those things are robot s just like how MIT did. Who knows, maybe in the future people will be making other things, maybe food? Is there such thing as edible 'plastic ink' cartridges? Will there be an advancement of edible printed food? There are more than thousands and thousands of items and things that people can make with three-dimensional printers! Will there be such thing in the future where one of your parents possibly say, "Dinner is printed!"
1) 3D printed robot image courtesy of news.mit.edu.com. 2) Stratasys Objet260 Connex printer image courtesy of javelin-tech.com. 3) 3D printing textures image/graph courtesy of MIT official video on www.washingtonpost.com. 4) 3D printed pizza image courtesy of technivorz.com.