Over the last several years, researchers have sought to create robotic personal assistants and bionic limbs or prosthetics that combine the durability of common robots with the flexibility of soft robots. More recently, combinations of cellular structures have shown interesting progress toward the enhancement of non-trivial capabilities, such as grasping uniquely shaped objects.
In their latest study published in Advanced Intelligent Systems, Woo Soo Kim and colleagues from the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, Simon Fraser University used 3D printing to fabricate an architectured robotic body with deformable lightweight cellular structures.
The team designed 3D-printed polymers structured with a unique truss design that can be “tuned” to different rigidities, from soft and rubbery to hard and metallic. By using 3D printing, the robot fingers could be efficiently manufactured, allowing the concurrent integration of an actuator, a pressure sensor, and the 3D cellular body. Owing to its properties, the flexible material provided the robot finger with human-like movement, but also with shock and vibration absorption properties, resulting in a superior protection of the internal electrical components.
By virtue of the architectured cellular technology, the robotic gripper was capable of handling soft objects such as bell peppers, tomatoes, and even eggs without breaking or damaging them, mimicking the strength and tenderness of a human hand.