Advances in material sciences has allowed robots to serve as caregivers for the booming elderly population. However, their complex design are not always efficient for at-home applications.
Purdue researchers have developed a new design method that will enable anyone to quickly design and fabricate soft robots using a 3D printer. Credit: Ramses Martinez/Purdue University
"Unfortunately, the external hard structure of current caregiving robots prevents them from a safe human-robot interaction, limiting their assistance to mere social interaction and not physical interaction," said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue's College of Engineering. "After all, would you leave babies or physically or cognitively impaired old people in the hands of a robot?"
Now, in a study published in Advanced Functional Materials, a novel design methodology shows promising design and fabrication of soft robots using a 3D printer
The methodology involves three steps. The first step involves a computer-aided design file with the shape of the robot. The second step involves the user painting the CAD file to show which directions the soft robot will move. Finally, a computer algorithm will convert the CAD model into a 3D architected soft machine (ASM)—which can then be printed using a conventional 3D printer.
"ASMs can perform complex motions such as gripping or crawling with ease, and this work constitutes a step forward toward the development of autonomous and lightweight soft robots," Martinez said. "The capability of ASMs to change their body configuration and gait to adapt to a wide variety of environments has the potential to not only improve caregiving but also disaster-response robotics."
Source: Science Daily