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3D Printed Muscle Lifts 1,000 Times Its Own Weight

SBS recently reported on a 3D printed artificial muscle developed by a team from the Creative Machines Laboratory at Columbia University in New York.

The team published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.  Astoundingly, this 3D printed artificial muscle has the ability to lift 1,000 times its own weight.  Researchers at Columbia “used a 3D printing technique to create the rubber-like synthetic muscle that expands and contracts like its biological counterpart.  Heated by a small electric current, the material was capable of expanding to nine times its normal size.”

Once tested, this 3D printed artificial muscle “demonstrated enormous strength, having a strain density – the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body – 15 times greater than natural muscle.”  The team dubbed this device a “soft actuator.”

As Professor Hod Lipson, one of the researchers from the Creative Machines Laboratory at Columbia explains, “we’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive.  This is a big piece of the puzzle, and like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways.  We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

Even beyond robots, however, these sorts of 3D printed ‘actuators’ could be useful for “sensitive surgical devices and a host of other applications where gripping and manipulation is important.”

Dr. Aslan Miriyev, also from the Creative Machines Lab, concludes, “our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today.  It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight.  It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to natural muscle.”

This research was funded, in part, by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of SBS and Columbia University

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