3D printing hearts for robots

As I’ve previously written, robots will not be limited to cold steel and lifeless wires and circuitry. Today’s scientists are coming to terms with the fact that nature’s methods are often more efficient than their lab-derived synthetic counterparts, so many researchers are now looking at ways to emulate nature instead of out-do her. For instance, researchers at the University of West England in Bristol have been developing the EcoBot II, which uses a sewage slurry to attract and digest flies for its locomotive and communication energy. Now though, Peter Walters is working on a heart for the EcoBot, and it’s 3D printed.

This robotic “heart” is powered by CO2 that yeast creates, causing a pressure to build up that then forces the heart membrane to distend; a valve that’s powered by the EcoBot’s microbial fuel cell opens to release the built-up pressure, thus allowing the cyclic pumping action. A later version of the heart is intended to cycle water throughout the system of the microbial fuel generator, which should also be able to power the heart, removing the need for the yeast.

A stereolithography 3D printer was used to produce the hard parts of the heart, as well as the molds to create the flexible membrane. Being able to avoid going to an injection molding company saved the university much time and money, the latter of which most researchers have precious little access to. With the help of 3D printing, biobotics are really coming along, so if you thought you’d be able to spot a T-1000 by feeling for a pulse, think again.

Source: New Scientist