Microrobots With Several Component Modules Being 3D Printed Inside A Microfluidic Chip

3D Printed

A technique for producing intricate microrobots powered by chemical energy via in situ integration was developed by researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Osaka University. The mechanical components and actuators of microrobots were assembled using 3D printing technology inside a microfluidic chip, and the resulting microrobots could move or grip objects. The idea of autonomous robots doing microsurgery may be made a reality thanks to this effort.

As medical technology develops, increasingly difficult surgeries that were once regarded as impractical are now achievable. We are still a long way from the promised future, though, in which a patient's body is traversed by tiny robots that can carry out operations like microsurgery or cancer cell removal.

Although nanotech technologies have already perfected the skill of creating microscopic structures, it is still difficult to manipulate and put these individual components together to form functional sophisticated robots, especially when trying to build them on a large scale. Because of this, it is still challenging and time-consuming to assemble, integrate, and reconfigure tiny mechanical parts, especially moveable actuators powered by chemical energy.

A group of scientists from Morishima and Wang at Osaka University, Hiratsuka at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST), and Nitta at Gifu University have now created a new technique for 3D printing microrobots with numerous component modules inside the same microfluidic chip. By using a laser to harden poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate, a photo-inducible biocompatible hydrogel, soft microrobot constructions can be created.

According to the first author, Yingzhe Wang, "Recently, microrobot development has been shifting from hard and inflexible constructions to soft and flexible designs." By putting the various modules together in situ, or where they would eventually go, the stepwise process was streamlined and made simpler in comparison to earlier approaches.

They were able to combine numerous components, such as joints, grippers, or artificial muscles, into a single device thanks to the team's assembly-line method. A wide range of microrobots with scalable mass production may be possible with the successful integration of various functionalities. The researchers presented a variety of types for their study, including a gripper, a fish, and a robot arm.

Senior author Keisuke Morishima adds, "Our in situ integration of actuators and mechanical components enhanced the flexibility and efficiency of microrobot manufacture, which may assist realize the currently challenging problem of mass production." These robots can be used in healthcare settings in addition to assisting in the creation of even more complex robots by serving as manipulators or microfluidic valves.

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