Public Release: 

Jumping robots blend the best of both worlds

American Association for the Advancement of Science

This news release is available in Japanese.

Researchers have designed a more efficient jumping robot with three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques and a combination of hard and soft materials. Inspired by designs in nature, such as snakes or insect larvae, soft-bodied robots are safer, more adaptable, and more resilient than their traditionally rigid counterparts, but molding and powering them has proved challenging. Now, Nicholas Bartlett and colleagues report a technique for designing and manufacturing untethered, frog-like jumping machines with more durability and control than their predecessors. The researchers used a multi-material 3D printer to build a robot body with nine different material layers, which ranged from highly flexible and rubber-like to fully rigid and thermoplastic-like. A rigid core houses the key components, including a battery and air compressor, and combines butane and oxygen for combustion while a primarily soft body absorbs impacts. By tweaking the interfaces between the robots' hard and soft components, Bartlett and his team were able to design a robot that could survive more landings and control the direction of its jumps more accurately. In the future, such soft-bodied robots might be able to squeeze into tight spaces and perform tasks that are too dangerous for humans.

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Article #7: "A 3D-printed, functionally graded soft robot powered by combustion," by N.W. Bartlett; J.T.B. Overvelde; J.C. Weaver; K. Bertoldi; G.M. Whitesides; R.J. Wood at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; N.W. Bartlett; G.M. Whitesides; R.J. Wood at Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard in Cambridge, MA; M.T. Tolley at University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, CA; B. Mosadegh at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, NY; B. Mosadegh at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY.

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