One reason we don’t yet have robot personal assistants buzzing around doing our chores is because making them is hard. Assembling robots by hand is time-consuming, while automation — robots building other robots — is not yet fine-tuned enough to make robots that can do complex tasks. But if humans and robots can’t do the trick, what about 3-D printers?
Ref: Printable Hydraulics: A Method for Fabricating Robots by 3D Co-Printing Solids and Liquids. 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) | MIT | CSAIL
This paper introduces a novel technique for fabricating functional robots using 3D printers. Simultaneously depositing photopolymers and a non-curing liquid allows complex, pre-filled fluidic channels to be fabricated. This new printing capability enables complex hydraulically actuated robots and robotic components to be automatically built, with no assembly required. The technique is showcased by printing linear bellows actuators, gear pumps, soft grippers and a hexapod robot, using a commercially-available 3D printer. We detail the steps required to modify the printer and describe the design constraints imposed by this new fabrication approach.