MIT Builds Robots Using Commercially-Available 3D Printers

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) revealed that they were able to build robots using commercially-available 3D printers.

In the paper entitled “Printable Hydraulics: A Method for Fabricating Robots by 3D Co-Printing Solids and Liquids,” MIT researchers wrote that one of the obstacles in building robots is that it is a time-consuming process. The traditional way of building robots, the MIT researchers said, requires engineers to sequentially assemble robots from many separate parts and requires long assembly times.

The MIT researchers call their robot-making process as “Printable Hydraulics.” This multi-material 3D printing process is capable of building a functional robot in just a single step, the MIT researchers added. The six-legged robot built by the MIT researchers can crawl via 12 hydraulic pumps placed inside its body. In order for it to work though, a battery and motor have to be added.

Robert MacCurdy, co-writer of the paper, told MIT News, “In the future, the system will hardly need any human input at all; you can just press a few buttons, and it will automatically make the changes.” MacCurdy added that printable robots have the potential to be used in disaster relief operations such as in dangerous environments like many nuclear sites.

CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, co-writer of the paper and the person responsible for overseeing this National Science Foundation-funded project, told MIT News that their new approach to building robots is a step towards the mass production of functional robots.

This is not the first time that Rus and her team developed 3D-printed robots. Back in 2014 Rus and her team were able to build a 3D-printed robotic arm that can crawl inside a pipe and grab an object. Previous 3D-printed robots of Rus and her team, however, require multiple non-3D printed objects. Rus and her team said that “Printable Hydraulics” is the closest approach in printing all robotic components in one step.