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MM Blog: 3D Printing Robots In Liquid

A look at 3D printing fully functioning robots from a liquid base

Researchers at MIT’s CSAIL computer science lab have announced that they can now print working robots on one 3D printer, from a single print with no assembly required. Called “Printable Hydraulics” the technique allows researchers to print robots with solid and liquid materials at the same time. According to the program’s director, all you have to do is stick in a battery and motor and you have a robot that can practically walk right out of the printer. To test their concept, the team 3d printed a crawling six-legged robot actuated by 12 hydraulic pumps.

The lab’s printer can print eight different materials at once, allowing it to create liquid-filled tubes that can be used to actuate robots’ joints. The different heads can emit solids, while others lay down liquids. UV lights cure the solid materials as they print—but leave the liquids alone—so the printer can accurately print complex structures with varied physical properties.

The hexapod took 22 hours to print, too long if this method is going to scale in manufacturing, but this breakthrough is certainly a leap forward in technology.  


Is this truly a breakthrough in 3D printing? Could this be the push that makes 3D printing a mainstay in the manufacturing process?

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