Congratulations to Assistant Professor Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado and team for winning the Innovation Prize at the Purmundus Challenge 2021 for their 3D printed soft robot! See here: https://purmundus-challenge.com/en/index.php
Their batoid-inspired optimised soft robot displayed 50% faster swimming speeds, 28% faster turning rates, and 55% smaller turning radii compared to other benchmark prototypes.
Conventional computer-aided designs and fabrication approaches provided limited complexity and functionality, hindering the performance of 3D printed functional structures.
So, the research team adopted a systems-level approach that allowed for innovative design, a higher degree of customisation and functionality of novel soft composite structures.
Using an all-in-one fabrication workflow with resilient silicone polymers, the team was able to produce the precise tailoring of mechanical properties. The fin fabrication process used Direct-Ink-Writing (DIW) and embedded 3D printing to achieve a 3D composite structure with fine features as small as 100 microns, or as thick as a single sheet of paper.
See the behind-the-scenes design process as well as the soft robot in action:
You can also read more on their universal approach to tailoring soft robots here.