Researchers Develop New Programmable 3D-Printing Technique To Customize Robot, Drone Properties

A new 3D printing technique called Programmable Viscoelastic Material (VPM) has recently been developed. The researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have demonstrated how it customizes the properties of robots, drones and other objects. 

The Programmable Viscoelastic Material Technique

One of the study's co-author Jeffrey Lipton mentioned to Digital Trends that it controls an object's mechanical properties. The VPM technique can be programmed to make several parts of any object soft and very stiff. This is without changing the appearance of the said object.

The said technology can be used in different fields. Though the researchers are actually most excited about its application in robotics. Apparently, soft robots are still made our of silicone and other rubbers. The said material is bouncy. It sometimes causes the object to land incorrectly.

Lipton said that they want to build something that could absorb the shock of the landing. The VPM can be used to customize the skin and bodies of the robots. It will prevent the robot from bouncing all over the place. It is able to disperse the energy created during the landing.

The researchers have managed to reduce the amount of energy by 250 percent. This is shown through a 3D printed cube robot that moves by bouncing. Co-author Robert MacCurdy added that roboticists will benefit from this. They will have much control over their designs.

VPM Technique On Smartphones

According to the, the VPM technique can avert robots from breaking and drones from crashing and crumpling. The CSAIL team also expressed that their new materials are suitable for smartphones. Among the other items include helmets and shoes.

The CSAIL Director and project leader Daniela Rus explains that it basically protects objects when they hit the floor. The study is published as "Printable Programmable Viscoelastic Materials for Robots". It is authored by MacCurdy, Lipton, Rus and Shuguang Li.

They will present their paper at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The said event will be held next week in South Korea, according to MIT.

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