They manage to create the first near-human robotic hand with 3D printed bones, tendons and ligaments

3D printing technology has taken another step with the development of the first soft robot handwith their Bones, ligaments and tendonsthanks to the adaptation of this type of printers so that they can work with elastic plastics.

The discovery, published this Wednesday in the journal Nature, is a collaboration between the Polytechnic University of Zurich (ETH) and the technology company Inkbit, a leading emerging 3D printing company founded by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). became.

Until now, 3D printing has been limited to the so-called fast-curing plastics (polymers)of great hardness, but now scientists have managed to technologically adapt these printers to slow-curing plastics, which are much more elastic, durable and robust.

Thanks to this adaptation, researchers You will be able to 3D print complex and longer lasting robots made from various high-quality materials in one go.

This new technology can therefore now combine soft, elastic and rigid materials to create delicate structures and parts with all kinds of cavities at will, which will offer enormous opportunities for the development of soft robotics. This is the case of the hand reached, whose bones, ligaments and tendons are made of different polymers at the same time.

“With the fast-curing polymers we have been using in 3D printing so far, we would not have been able to make this hand, but thanks to the use of slow-curing polymers, which have great elastic properties and return to their original state much faster after bending than that others, we made it possible,” said Thomas Buchner, professor of robotics at ETH Zurich.

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The researcher has emphasized that “robots were developed from elastic materials like the hand.” several advantages compared to conventional metal robots, from the lower risk of injury when working with people to the better suitability for handling fragile goods.

To enable the use of slow-curing polymers, researchers have advanced 3D printing, adding a 3D laser scanner that instantly checks each printed layer for any surface irregularities. Instead of smoothing out uneven layers, the new technology simply takes the irregularities into account when printing the next layer.

“A feedback mechanism compensates for these irregularities when printing the next layer by calculating the necessary adjustments in the amount of material to be printed in real time and with millimeter precision,” said another of the authors, Wojciech Matusik, a professor of engineering and computer science at MIT.

ETH Zurich indicated in a statement that it would use the technology for this purpose Design even more sophisticated structures and develop additional applicationswhile Inkbit will market it in new 3D printers.

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