New method created for 3D printing sensor-equipped soft robotics

Engineering

A new method has been developed to aid the creation of soft robotics equipped with sensors capable of detecting movement, pressure, touch and temperature changes.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed an organic ionic liquid-based conductive ink that can be 3D-printed within soft elastomer matrices used to create soft robots.

“A new 3D printing approach has been developed for the creation of soft robots with sophisticated embedded sensors.“

This allowed them to create a robotic gripper composed of three soft fingers, which was shown to be able to sense inflation pressure, curvature, contact and temperature through multiple embedded contact sensors.

It means that future efforts to create soft robots will not be limited by the geometric or material selection constraints that hold back conventional moulding techniques, allowing complex and monolithic robots to be produced with embedded sensors and actuators.

Study author Ryan Truby, a PhD graduate at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said: "Our research represents a foundational advance in soft robotics. Our manufacturing platform enables complex sensing motifs to be easily integrated into soft robotic systems."

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