How a 3D Printed Seahorse Tail May Inspire the Next Generation of Robotics

Seahorse tails are unique in nature. Unlike most animals’ round tails, their tails are made up of square prisms.

Now, with the help of 3D printing, scientists are exploring the unique quality of the seahorses’ tails and how they may benefit robotics development.

Michael Porter, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Clemson University, said his team wanted to know more about the benefits of square vs round tails. So, they started with 3D printing.

“New technologies, like 3D-printing, allow us to mimic biological designs, but also build hypothetical models of designs not found in nature,” said Porter. “We can then test them against each other to find inspiration for new engineering applications and also explain why biological systems may have evolved.”

After comparing square vs round they found out that the square tail makes it stiffer and stronger and may provide a solution for robotic arms.

“Understanding the role of mechanics in these prototypes may help engineers to develop future seahorse-inspired technologies that mimic the prehensile and armored functions of the natural appendage for a variety of applications in robotics, defense systems, or biomedicine” the authors wrote in their study on the seahorse tails.

They added, “The possibilities are many.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia