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Revolutionizing 3D Printing: ETH and Inkbit Print Fully Functional Robotic Hand

  • ETH Zurich and Inkbit achieve a milestone by 3D printing a fully functional robotic hand with bones, ligaments, and tendons.
  • The use of versatile polymers and a laser-scanning technique enhances 3D printing, allowing soft robotic structures.
  • Inkbit plans to commercialize advanced printers for manufacturers, enabling transformative applications in prosthetics and beyond.

In a groundbreaking achievement, researchers from ETH Zurich and Inkbit, a US-based startup, have 3D printed a robotic hand with bones, ligaments, and tendons simultaneously. This marks a significant advancement in 3D printing technology, as detailed in a Nature research journal.

Versatile Polymers and Laser-Scanning technique

Utilizing different polymers with varying softness and rigidity, the team employed a new laser-scanning technique to create "special plastics with elastic qualities" in a single print run. This innovation transforms prosthetics and extends to applications requiring soft robotic structures.

Soft Robotics and Nature Mimicry

The method developed by Inkbit introduces the ability to 3D print slow-curing plastics, offering advantages like increased durability and enhanced elastic properties. 

The resulting soft robotic hand aligns with nature, providing safer interaction with humans and improved handling of delicate items, as highlighted by ETH Zurich Robotics Professor Robert Katzschmann.

Integrated Scanning and Material Advancements

While maintaining a layer-by-layer printing approach, an integrated scanner continuously monitors the surface for irregularities, seamlessly guiding the system through various material types. 

Commercialization plans by Inkbit

MIT-affiliated startup Inkbit plans to commercialize this technology by selling advanced printers to manufacturers. Moreover, Inkbit aims to offer complex 3D-printed objects, leveraging the newfound capabilities, to smaller entities.

This breakthrough paves the way for transformative applications in prosthetics and beyond.

Edited by Shruti Thapa