Researchers Create 3D Printed Robotic Muscles

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 12:36

Researchers from American, Japanese, and Korean universities have created a technique for making 3D printed soft robotic devices which could be used to create realistic robotic muscles.

According to 3D printer and 3D printings news, robots are able to do impressive things such as cleaning the house, building a car, and even hold a basic conversation but they have been limited by their rigidity. The emerging field of soft robotics is beginning to embrace new, flexible robotic materials, designed to open up a new world of technological possibilities.

Kwang Kim, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, started a large collaborative project in order to create realistic robotic muscles that can be useful in revolutionizing prosthetic devices for disabled people.

The research team identified Ionic Polymer-Metal Composites that would be flexible and strong enough to function like a muscle, as well as being controllable via electronic means.

“In robotics you've got to be able to move and you've got to be able to sense. We are using the electroactive polymer itself.” said Kam Leang, an associate professor at the University of Utah Robotics Center and co-investigator on the project.

There are two advantages in using an electroactive polymer, the material can be controlled with electrical currents, and be used to sense motion. The researchers are currently working on ways to scale up the 3D printing process and discover new ways to control the motion of the polymer.

The project has been supported by NSF's Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program. Other participants in the project included researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

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