3D-Printed Bots Use Shock-Absorbing "Skins" for Safe, Precise Landing

MIT researchers have created a new method for 3D printing soft materials that make robots safer and more precise in their movements, which could be used to improve the durability of drones, phones, helmets, and more. The new 'programmable viscoelastic material' (PVM) technique allows users to program every part of a 3D-printed object to the levels of stiffness and elasticity they want, depending on the task they need for it. After 3D printing a cube robot that moves by bouncing, the MIT researchers outfitted it with shock-absorbing 'skins' that use only 1/250 the amount of energy it transfers to the ground. "That reduction makes all the difference for preventing a rotor from breaking off of a drone or a sensor from cracking when it hits the floor," says CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) Director Daniela Rus.