THE (AMAZING) 3D-PRIN TED
Michael Tolley, assistant professor
of mechanical engineering | Nicholas
Bartlett, Ph.D. student in Harvard’s
Got a catchier name for this guy?
Let us know @ucsdalumni - #namethatbot
Researchers were inspired by the way
some organisms’ bodies blend soft and
hard materials. Mussels, for example,
have a foot that starts out soft yet becomes
rigid at the point of contact with rocks.
Engineers brought this concept to the
first-ever 3D-printed robot that transitions
from a rigid core to a soft exterior. “Bringing
together soft and rigid materials will help
create a new generation of fast, agile robots
that are more robust and adaptable than
their predecessors, and can safely work side
by side with humans,” says Tolley.
The robot is made of two nestled
hemispheres, one of which has nine layers
of stiffness that go from a flexible, rubber-like exterior to full rigidity near the core.
Researchers struck a fine balance between
hard and soft—where a fully rigid top would
make for higher jumps, a more flexible top
would survive impacts on landing, allowing
the robot to be reused.
Powered by a mix of butane and oxygen, this
bot is capable of more than 30 untethered
jumps. In tests, the robot jumped six times
its body height (or 2 ½ feet) and survived
multiple falls from four feet— 10 times its
Jeffrey Friesen, ’ 13, Ph.D. student,
Jacobs School of Engineering |
Coordinated Robotics Lab
PARTNERS IN SPACE
With Americans spending an estimated 90
percent of their time indoors, air quality
is a major concern for public health.
Researchers at UC San Diego’s Coordinated
Robotics Lab developed the Duc TT robot to
navigate HVAC (heating, ventilation and air
conditioning) systems better than current
devices, which are similar to miniature
street sweepers. Duc TT was designed
using principles of tensegrity, which uses
components under pure tension and pure
compression. “Tensegrity robots have the
advantage of being light and flexible,” says
Friesen. “Duc TT is built from lightweight
tubes and cables arranged to provide an
extensive range of motion with a small
number of motors.”
Where other devices are unable to access
more remote parts of air systems, Duc TT
uses an inchworm-like movement to
explore ducts more efficiently and achieve
a range of motion that can negotiate the
intersection of two or more ducts.
Duc TT is funded by a grant from NASA,
and is developed in collaboration with
the tensegrity group at NASA/Ames
This bot’s jumping mechanism behaves
much like a basketball that gets inflated
almost instantaneously. The flexible
bottom then returns to its original shape.