Project Could Enable People to Design and Print Customised Robots in Less than a Day

April 4, 2012 – 3:56 pm

An insect-like robot designed and printed using a new process

Robot designed using the new process

Robotics is a growing field in electronic research, but progress is hampered by the time and money it takes to develop a robot and its hardware and software components. And why should scientists have all the fun? A project lead by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to “democratise” access to robots, enabling people to make their own customised robots, according to a MIT press release. The project could have numerous applications in personalised healthcare, as well as in manufacturing, education and disaster relief.

The five-year project is sponsored by a US$10 million grant from the US National Science Foundation. It is a collaboration between MIT, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. The goal is to develop a desktop technology that would enable the average person to design and print a specialised robot. Currently, it takes years to design, program and produce a robot. The project would allow people to print functional robots in only a few hours from simple materials such as paper. The researchers envision that a person would go to a local printing store to select a design from a library of blueprints, and then customise the design to solve a specific problem. The two prototypes that have been created so far include a gripper for people with limited mobility and a robot designed to explore contaminated areas.

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