Previously developed soft robots tend to be slow, especially when accomplishing tasks without being tethered to power sources and other electronics. Researchers have now created the world's first 3D-printed robot with a rigid core but a soft exterior that helps him take multiple jumps and adapt better with humans. In a series of tests, the robot jumped about two-and-a-half-feet in height and half-a-foot laterally. During experiments, the robot jumped more than 100 times and survived an additional 35 falls from a height of almost four feet.
Engineers from Harvard University and the University of California (UC)- San Diego said, "The nature-inspired robot is capable of more than 30 untethered jumps and is powered by a mix of butane and oxygen."
Michael Tolley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC-San Diego, said, "Bringing together soft and rigid materials will help create a new generation of fast, agile robots that are more adaptable than their predecessors and can safely work side by side with humans. In nature, complexity has a very low cost. Using new manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, we are trying to translate this to robotics."
The researcher team hopes that their work will allow rigid components to be better integrated within soft robots who can move faster without compromising the safety of the humans who would work with them.
The study appears in Science.