In a bid to give robots greater ability to really feel the environment that they’re in, researchers at the University of Minnesota have come up with a new way of 3D printing stretchable electronic sensory devices, fabrics they believe will have lots of different practical uses.
Mechanical engineering associate professor and lead researcher Michael McAlpine explained that putting bionic skin on surgical robots, for example, would give doctors the opportunity to actually feel while carrying out minimally invasive surgeries.
This would make such procedures easier and would remove the need for using cameras, which is what surgeons rely on at the moment, he went on to note.
It’s also possible that this new process could be used to print electronics on human skin, wearable tech that could ultimately be used by soldiers to detect dangerous explosives or for health monitoring.
“While we haven’t printed on human skin yet, we were able to print on the curved surface of a model hand using our technique. We also interfaced a printed device with the skin and were surprised that the device was so sensitive that it could detect your pulse in real time,” Mr McAlpine said.
3D printing has also recently been making headlines as a way of revolutionising the UK housing market, allowing construction companies to keep up with increased demand for housing and bring new homes to market at a much quicker pace. It’s certainly worth watching this space to see what else 3D printing could be used for in the future!
Or perhaps you’ll have the next bright idea. Take our electronic principle courses to see if you have what it takes!