Inspenet, November 17, 2023.
Until now, 3D printing was limited to the use of fast-curing plastics for creating three-dimensional models, but recently slow-curing plastics have been introduced.
Developed by the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and the American startup Inkbit , this new technology has made it possible to print more robust and complete robots in one go. The results, detailed in the journal Nature, include robotic hands with artificial muscles, ligaments and tendons.
“To build the robotic hand we have used slow-healing thiolene polymers. They have very good elastic properties and recover their original shape after bending much faster than polyacrylates.” explains Thomas Buchner, a doctoral student in Professor Robert Katzschmann’s group at ETH Zurich. ” They are therefore ideal for making ligaments. “
Additionally, the stiffness of thiolenes can be finely tuned to meet the requirements of soft robotics. “Robots made of soft materials, like the hand we have developed, have advantages over conventional robots made of metal. Because they are soft, they pose a lower risk of accidents and injuries when interacting with human workers and are better equipped to handle fragile objects.” explains Katzschmann.
It should be noted that the researchers developed a three-dimensional laser scanner that immediately checks that there are no irregularities on each printed surface.
This process gives slow-curing plastics the time necessary to consolidate their complex structure. Robotic elements are printed in their entirety, eliminating the need for assembly. The technology has been created by Inkbit, founded by MIT researchers who have collaborated with experts from ETH. In addition to opening new perspectives in the fields of prosthetics and robotics, this innovation is expected to extend to 3D printing on a commercial level and for particular applications.
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