Engineers at the University of California San Diego have devised a new method to 3D-print insect-like flexible robots cheaply, quickly that too without using any type of exotic equipment. The structures called flexoskeletons are inspired by insect exoskeletons that are made by 3D printing a rigid material on a thin sheet that acts as a flexible base. They are printed with various features that increase rigidity in specific areas (like insect exoskeletons) thereby, combining softness and rigidity for movement and support.
The best part of these flexoskeletons is that each flexoskeleton component takes just 10 minutes to print and costs less than $1. The entire process of printing and assembling a whole robot takes less than 2 hours. Together these small robots could do as much work as one massive robot on its own or even more. This will initially help researchers to build robots quickly and easily thereby finally helping in mass-producing robots without human involvement. The working of the robot is shown in the below video.
Aiming to lead the creation of a new class of soft bioinspired robots, the new method ensures to help in the construction of soft components for robots in a short period and a cost-effective manner. With this method, it becomes easier to build large groups of flexoskeleton robots with little manual assembly. Besides, assembling a library of Lego-like components is also made possible with this new method thereby allowing the easy swapping of robot parts. The team plans to make their designs available to researchers at other institutions as well as high schools.