Associate Professor Mike Tolley has received an NSF grant to spearhead groundbreaking research focused on pioneering a novel technique for 3D printing robots from a single material, powered exclusively by compressed air. By utilizing pressurized gas for both actuation and computation, this innovative approach eliminates the need for complex assembly or multi-material 3D printing, significantly reducing production costs and enhancing recyclability. The project's open-source design tool will establish design rules for creating functional pneumatic components through extrusion printing, advancing the understanding of the underlying physics behind their performance. The resulting knowledge will pave the way for the streamlined 3D printing of agile soft robots equipped with sensors and feedback control circuits, with broad applications in fields such as education, environmental monitoring, and medical devices. Additionally, this research provides valuable opportunities for multidisciplinary training and STEM outreach, particularly focusing on underrepresented student groups.
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