3D-printed magnetic mesh ‘robot’ can float, bend and grab on demand
According to foreign media Nnew Atlas, when you think ofrobotYou might not think of elastic meshes that can float on water, but that’s exactly what researchers at North Carolina State University have developed. These soft structures are 3D printed and embedded with magnetic particles that stretch and compress to grab and move small objects.
To make these “robot” grids, the team first mixed an “ink” made of silicon microbeads, liquid silicon, water and particles of carbonyl iron. These can then be 3D printed in various mesh shapes and then cured in an oven to form soft, flexible structures. These “Robots” can float on water like insects.
To control the structure, the team could change the magnetic field, adjusting its strength up or down or turning it on and off. For example, turning this magnetic field on could cause the mesh to crush towards one end and then spring back to its original size when the area is turned off again. By changing the size and shape of the grid, the team was able to create a number of different “robot” designs for various purposes. In one example, the researchers created a spring-like gripper with a “gripper” on one end. When the magnetic field is turned on, the spring part gathers and uses it to drag the “gripper”. By opening and closing, the researchers were able to extend the “grip”, grab a small aluminum ball and drag it in.
In another example, the researchers made a large, flat sheet with more “lines” in the middle. When the magnetic field is turned on, the mesh contracts towards the center, allowing it to hold a drop of water on its surface. But switch off the magnetic field, and the mesh stretches to its full size, allowing droplets to fall into the water below. The design allows for liquid transport and can be mixed as required.
“This study shows the capabilities of the emerging field of combining 3D printing and flexible robotics,” said Orlin Velev, corresponding author of the study. “For now, this is an early proof-of-concept for a flexible Robotic actuator.”
The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials Technology.
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