From: University of California - San Diego
Published May 16, 2017 05:04 PM

3D-printed soft four legged robot can walk on sand and stone

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first soft robot that is capable of walking on rough surfaces, such as sand and pebbles. The 3D-printed, four-legged robot can climb over obstacles and walk on different terrains.

Researchers led by Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California San Diego, will present the robot at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation from May 29 to June 3 in Singapore. The robot could be used to capture sensor readings in dangerous environments or for search and rescue.

The breakthrough was possible thanks to a high-end printer that allowed researchers to print soft and rigid materials together within the same components. This made it possible for researchers to design more complex shapes for the robot’s legs.

Bringing together soft and rigid materials will help create a new generation of fast, agile robots that are more adaptable than their predecessors and can safely work side by side with humans, said Tolley. The idea of blending soft and hard materials into the robot’s body came from nature, he added. “In nature, complexity has a very low cost,” Tolley said. “Using new manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, we’re trying to translate this to robotics.”

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Image: Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first soft robot that is capable of walking on rough surfaces, such as sand and pebbles. The 3-D-printed, four-legged robot can climb over obstacles and walk on different terrains. (Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering / UC San Diego)

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