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MIT Prints Shock-Absorbing 3D 'Skin' to Protect Robots

Oct 06, 2016 04:33 AM EDT

Researchers from MIT have developed a revolutionary "skin" that will help protect robots and humans from impacts and dangerous landings.

MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) will introduce a new method on printing 3D skin that will absorb shock and lessens impact of landing. The team of researchers created a cube-robot that is covered with their newest and sophisticated 3D skin, according to MIT News.

How does the 3D skin works? Think of it as a padding that covers a drone, a robot or any material that when it lands, the padding will not only protect the material, but will also lessen the impact by letting it bounce instead of crashing on the ground. This technology is made possible by a new method of 3D skin printing method called "programmable viscoelastic material" (PVM) using a padding made out of solid and liquid qualities called "viscoelastics," which are cheaper, compact and more accessible.

PVM allows users to adjust every single part of the 3D-printed object and to choose exact levels of stiffness and elasticity they need. By being able to control the 3D-printed object, the durability of the robots can be assured.

However, despite the accessibility of "viscoelastics," it is only available in specific sizes and at specific damping levels because customizing them takes a lot of time. To address these pressing hindrances, researchers had thought of a solution: 3-D printing. They printed the cube and its skins using TangoBlack+ and a standard 3-D printer.

There are a lot of advantages in this new method. Aside from cutting off costs of mass manufacturing an off-shell material, it is pretty economical to print. Also, with 3D printing, users can manipulate which design, exact levels and the likes.

When 3D skin applied, robots will be able to make movements at ease, improve their landing up to four times precise.

"Being able to program different regions of an object has important implications for things like helmets," says Robert MacCurdy, one of the authors of the paper. "You could have certain parts made of materials that are comfortable for your head to rest on, and other shock-absorbing materials for the sections that are most likely to be impacted in a collision."

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