May 17, 2017 04:46 PM EDT
A team of Engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed world's first soft robot capable of walking on rough surfaces. In this project, engineers use a 3D printer for the structural development of the soft robot which has four legs.
From 29th May to 3rd June an international meeting for IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation will be held in Singapore. Michael Tolley, a mechanical professor at UC San Diego will present this 3D-printed soft robot at the conference.
As per News report on UC San Diego, this Soft robot could climb over obstacles and walk on different terrains. That's why this robot could be used to record sensor readings in hostile environments and also for search and rescue.
However, researchers have wanted to give all the credits on a high-end 3D printer for this breakthrough project. They emphasized that the printer could able to print soft and rigid materials together within the same components. Therefore the distinct capability of the 3D-printer could help to design the complex shape of robot's legs for uneven terrain. Apart from conventional design, 3D-printing is more reliable, cheap, and less time consuming for the structural development.
According to Tolley, the four legs of the soft robot are built by three parallel-connected sealed inflatable chambers which also called actuator. For this part, engineers have used rubber-like materials which are 3D printed to construct the structure. However, these chambers are hollow on the inside which will help to inflate the leg. From the outside, these chambers resemble as bellows tube which will provide better maneuverability.
The walking operation is depending on time, the amount of pressure and the order in which the pistons in its four legs are inflated. The response and outcome from the movement of the soft robot are also closely matched the researcher's predictions. From this, researcher hopes for better improvement for 3D designing in future, informed by Science daily.
Now this prototype quadruped (four-legged) soft robot is integrated with an open source board and an air pump. Researchers are working on the miniaturized version of the board and pump which will help to move the robot autonomously. Though, the most challenging task is to find the right design for the board and components, like power sources and batteries.