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And Now, the Hopping Robot


In the field, the robots hopping motion could be an effective way to move quickly and easily around obstacles.

Harvard researchers have built one of the first 3D-printed soft robots that moves autonomously.

Credit: Harvard Microrobotics Lab

Using three-dimensional printing, engineers at Harvard University have developed a robot that integrates rigid and soft materials and can move autonomously.

The robot's body can transition from soft to hard, which reduces stress where electronic components join the body and increases the robot's resiliency. The body's design was created in one continuous print job using several materials, while an absence of sliding parts or traditional joints means the robot will be less impacted by dirt or debris than conventional robots.

"The robot's stiffness gradient allows it to withstand the impact of dozens of landings and to survive the combustion event required for jumping," says Harvard graduate student Nicholas Bartlett.

The robot has a soft, plunger-like body with three pneumatic legs and a rigid core module that contains power and control components. To initiate movement, the robot inflates its pneumatic legs to tilt its body in the direction it wants to go. Butane and oxygen are mixed and ignited, catapulting the robot into the air up to six times its body height.

The robot's jumping ability and soft body are expected to make it conducive to harsh and unpredictable environments or disaster situations.

From Harvard Gazette
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