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3D-Printed 'bionic Skin' Could Give Robots the Sense of Touch

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Three-dimensionally printing stretchable electronic sensory devices could give robots the ability to feel their environment.

A one-of-a-kind three-dimensional printer built at the University of Minnesota can print touch sensors directly on a model hand.

Credit: Shuang-Zhuang Guo and Michael McAlpine

Researchers at the University of Minnesota (U of M) have developed a new process for three-dimensionally (3D) printing stretchable electronic sensory devices that could enable robots to tactilely sense their environment.

"Putting this type of 'bionic skin' on surgical robots would give surgeons the ability to actually feel during minimally-invasive surgeries, which would make surgery easier instead of just using cameras like they do now," says U of M professor Michael McAlpine.

McAlpine notes the sensors also could make it easier for other robots to walk and interact with their environment.

The skin is produced by a multifunctional 3D printer using multiple ink layers.

The discovery is a major step forward in printing electronics on real human skin, paving the way for wearable technology that could be used for health monitoring or by soldiers to detect chemicals or explosives.

The researchers say the next step is semiconductor inks and printing on a real body.

From University of Minnesota News
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