Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the University of Minnesota are developing materials that can be 3D printed based on the flexibility and nimbleness of invertebrates such as a squid.

Traditional materials are too rigid and limit certain types of movement that robots might require to get into “confined or restricted spaces,” said Ed Habtour, an ARL researcher. The prototypes that Habtour and fellow ARL researchers developed gave 3D-printed actuators three times the movement as what’s been tested before.

The material that they’ve used in their testing will bend in any direction when hit with electricity.

“In the initial phase of the project, our team began by investigating new methods for emulating the locomotion of invertebrates,” said Michael McAlpine, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

That helped researchers learn how to apply the natural movement of invertebrates like squids to produce “high bending motions without skeletal support,” McAlpine said.

Fans of sf writers Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling may recall the chemotactic artificial jellyfish from their 1994 story Big Jelly:

"...about the size of a deflated football. I dropped it in my swimmin' pool. It was floatin' there, kinda rippling and pulsing, for about two days. Didn't you say that sucker would run for weeks? Forty-eight hours and it was gone!..."

"No way," protested Tug, intensely. "It must have slipped out a crack in the side of your pool. I built that model to last three weeks for sure! It was my best prototype. It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither into undersea vents and find its way to underground oil beds..."

Update 05-Jun-2020: Read this very early mention of the idea of biomimicry (also called biomimetics) in the works of HG Wells; see robot biomimicry from The War of the Worlds (1898). End update.

Via C4isrnet.

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