BUILDING A ROBOT is hard work. It’s expensive. It requires expertise in a number of disciplines, and a willingness to make certain trade-offs for practical reasons. But many of those obstacles melt away when you can 3-D print a robot with liquids and solids simultaneously.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have done just that. Their “printable hydraulics” method uses an inkjet printer to build up layer upon layer material less than half the width of a human hair one drop at a time. After each layer, a high-intensity UV light solidifies the material that is to be solid, while leaving the liquids liquid. In other words, the process can print a complex shape that contains liquid.