3D printed, walking robot: this multi-purpose, soft-legged robot can navigate rough terrain, access tiny spaces

A team of scientists from the University of California San Diego has created a robot using a 3D printer that prints both soft and rigid materials. This allows the robot to have soft features, a flexibility of movement, and stability where needed so that it can walk, crawl, navigate rough terrain, move in various directions, rotate in place, and climb over obstacles.

 

This tiny 3D-printed robot could have many applications, a low-cost way to access tight spaces, able to navigate almost any terrain due to innovative soft legs.

 

The robot was tested on large rocks, sand, pebble-covered ground, inclined surfaces, and more to ensure versatility. Rigid robots typically perform well in controlled terrain but face difficulty when attempting to navigate rougher surfaces. Softer robots can shuffle and crawl, but they cannot lift their legs and avoid obstacles. This led to the development of a robot with soft legs as well as rigid materials, allowing it to navigate unstructured terrain safely.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Michael Tolley stated, “We want them to be able to navigate through a collapsed building, squeeze through different openings, or walk through a more natural, rough-terrain kind of environment.”

 


The robot’s legs rely on a bladder-based system of expanding and contracting rubber chambers, similar to that of robots created in Harvard’s robotics lab, some of which include elastomeric grippers and tentacles that mimic squids.

 

The unique secret of this mini robot is soft legs that can be easily 3D printed.

 

 

Tolley described the work that went into creating a robot capable of the complex movements they envisioned. “Before, we had these channels that we were inflating to make the legs bend one way. But to do what I wanted to do, we would have to make the legs bend around different axes. We couldn’t do it with the simple layered molding techniques we did before. We actually had to come up with a way of repeatedly and rapidly making more complex 3D printed bladders.”

 

Components of the simple and inexpensive mini all-terrain robot.

 

The new system features three bladders placed side-by-side, “connected in such a way that when you inflate one, you get bending in one direction,” said Tolley. “If you bend another or do some combination of them, you can actually control a full, 360-degrees of bending angles.” The gait also depends on the timing, the amount of pressure applied, and the order in which the pistons are inflated.

Going forward, researchers are focusing on miniaturizing the board and pump, as well as finding the right design and components which will allow the robot to walk independently

 

The mini robot can navigate rough terrain.

 

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Infrastructure investment must be smart, forward-thinking: report
  • TransCanada submits new, more costly proposal for Energy East pipeline
  • Economy outperforms in January; manufacturing leads broad-based growth
  • 3D printed homes in 24 Hours — printed on site: printed villas, offices and floating saunas?
  • Canada could lead the world in cleantech: report
  • Manufacturing sales up in November, government scraps duties on imported food ingredients
  • Davie shipyard delivers "most complex" vessel ever built in NA
  • Jobs cut at Bombardier as business jet sales soften
  • StatsCan reports record auto sales for May 2017: 11 per cent over last year
  • Canadian cleantech sector strong in research, innovation, but weak in commercialization
  • For some car makers March was best ever
  • Danger Doc Robinson: researchers at RMIT University find vehicle vibrations may induce sleep in drivers
  • Record car sales reported in Canada, US for October
  • UPS Canada implementing 50 per cent alternative fuels in fleet by 2018
  • Government investment, weakening dollar, stronger US economy could spell relief for Canada's manufacturers
  • IBM reveals super-efficient solar power system prototype
  • Overheated bearings, gearboxes among causes of wind turbine fires
  • Move to autonomous cars gains momentum with CES announcements, more expected from Detroit auto show
  • Building code change could help drain water heat recovery manufacturers
  • Manufacturing sector saw slight improvement in August: RBC
Scroll to Top