A 3-D Printed Flexible Mesh Robot Developed By Researchers from NC State University

In a new study, researchers have created 3-D printed flexible mesh structures controlled with an applied magnetic field while floating on water. Researchers affiliated with the North Carolina State University, including Doris Culberson, who is a distinguished professor of Chemical and bimolecular Engineering and Orlin Velev, S. Frank. Professors said that this research is efficient to be used in the emerging field of soft robotics and combing 3-D printing. Moreover, the structure is capable of grabbing small objects and can carry water droplets. This will be useful as soft robots that imitate living creatures on the water surface or can function as tissue scaffolds for cell cultures.

Magnetic Field Guiding 3-D Printed Flexible Mesh Robots

Researchers made ink from silicone microbeads, bounded by liquid silicon and contained in water. This resulted in homocomposite thixotropic paste, similar to common toothpaste. This paste can be easily used and maintains its shape on toothbrush without dripping. To maintain a mesh-like pattern, researchers used 3-D printers to shape the paste. After this, the patterns are kept in an oven to form flexible silicon structures that can be stretched, controlled, and collapsed by using magnetic fields.

As per the first author of the paper, Sangchul Roh said that this self-reinforced paste helps in making structures that are flexible and ultra-soft. According to professor Velev, the structures possess the capability to expand and contract in all directions making it an auxetic structure. And with the help of 3-D printing, its shape before and after the magnetic field can be managed. Other properties of this structure allow it to be used while floating in water, similar to insects or water strides.