3D printing: this innovative process makes it possible to obtain robots in one step

— © Rayne Research Group / UCLA

Researchers at the University of California have developed a promising new 3D printing process to produce small robots that can perform various tasks in one step.

3D printed “metabots”

The production of robots, regardless of their size, usually involves a number of complex processes. In comparison, a new 3D printing technology recently described in the journal Science Advances makes it possible to obtain in one step all the mechanical and electronic systems needed to operate small robotic devices.

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This all-in-one method is made possible by advances in the design and printing of piezoelectric metamaterials that can change shape in response to an electric field (they can bend, twist, expand or contract in a fraction of a second). seconds).

“The internal network of our 3D-printed programmable nanobots consists of sensory, mobile and structural elements, which allows them not only to walk, maneuver and jump, but also to feel and adapt to the environment,” the scientists specify.

A series of experiments have shown that combining a battery and a controller results in various types of fully autonomous, fingernail-sized metabots. The former was able to navigate effectively in a difficult environment by avoiding randomly placed obstacles, the latter managed to avoid being hit by its detection system, and the third evolved on uneven ground, making small jumps when necessary.

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Various Applications

According to the authors of the study, this production technology opens the way to a new generation of robots that could be used in the medical field (self-guided endoscopes, floating robots that can move inside our blood vessels and deliver drug compounds). etc.) or dedicated to the study of dangerous or hard-to-reach environments.

“Eventually, this approach could replace the complex assembly process currently required to get a robot,” said Xiaoyu Zheng, lead author of the study.

A few weeks ago, another group of American researchers unveiled the world’s smallest remote-controlled walking robot whose movements were controlled by a laser beam.

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