Robot 3D printed in solid and liquid at the same time
And to demonstrate how well it works, they have developed adorable little robots that waddle about on little hydraulic legs.
"Our approach, which we call 'printable hydraulics,' is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines," said CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who oversaw the project and co-wrote the paper, in a statement. "All you have to do is stick in a battery and motor, and you have a robot that can practically walk right out of the printer."
The printer first starts with the solid materials, building them up layer by layer, curing them with UV light before adding the liquid that powers the hydraulic bellows that operate the legs. This overcomes several challenges previously associated with 3D printing liquids.
"Inkjet printing lets us have eight different print-heads deposit different materials adjacent to one another, all at the same time," said co-author Robert MacCurdy. "It gives us very fine control of material placement, which is what allows us to print complex, pre-filled fluidic channels."
The six-inch hexapod robot designed to prove the concept takes 22 hours to print, which isn't long considering its complexity.