3D printing and robotics seem made for each other. Rapid, high-precision prototyping and manufacturing in many available materials meets automation and low risk involvement in many tasks. Robotics provide the solution to the human factor while 3D printing helps to lower production costs for robotics and components.
A recent breakthrough has shown that a hybrid model of both traditional and soft robotics can be used in order to create a robot that can walk on rough terrains and achieve omni-directional movement through similar means. While many traditional robots could achieve these things on their own, they were not flexible enough to squeeze into tight spaces.
What does soft robotics mean?
Soft robotics is a term that is normally used to refer to creating a robot from non-rigid materials. This 3D printed robot, however is composed of both rigid and non-rigid materials and moves by injecting air into its legs or removing air to simulate muscular functions.
While it does not necessarily fit the bill for traditional soft robotics, it is soft enough to grip its surrounding terrain and flexible enough to move by using air pressure in its limbs.
Why do we care?
This robot brings together the best of both worlds and confirms the potential for future robots to use similar theories to achieve higher movement speeds and other, more effective functionality.
Who does this breakthrough affect?
Many robotics sectors face disruption at the hands of this hybrid technology, as it combines the versatility of soft robots with a level of functionality normally found in traditional robots. Affected sectors may include drone delivery, transportation, manufacturing, retail, tourism, and many more.
How will this change robotics?
This has already changed robotics by proving that a hybrid concept is both feasible to create and functional in a real-world scenario. In the future, this technology will likely change robotics by increasing the speed with which robots can move in rough terrain and how robots can be used for purposes such as space-dependant search and rescue missions.
This combination of traditional and soft robotics is poised to change the way that the robotics industry operates in the coming years. By proving that 3D printed robotics can perform similar roles to classic robot production methods at a lower cost, this concept has shown that the modern robotics industry leaves much to be desired in terms of production efficiency.
Additionally, this concept robot has proven that soft robotics can be used to achieve efficient movement whilst still retaining the ability to slither into tiny spaces and be flexible.
What has long been a significant drawback for soft robotics is now coming into play by making use of traditional robotics. This robot has been 3D printed for cost efficiency and can crawl into tiny spaces while still being able to walk around more expediently than similar soft robots. Did I mention that it can move omnidirectionally and moves using only air pressure in its legs?