MSI PI Michael McAlpine (Mechanical Engineering) is working with the US Army Research Lab (ARL) to create soft robots inspired by invertebrates. They are using 3D printing technology to create these robots, which will have much better capabilities for working in congested and urban environments. The researchers have created a prototype of a soft actuator that has tunable parameters, and is fully 3D printed. This research was published recently in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters: 3-D printed electrically-driven soft actuators.
Articles about this project appear on the ARL website: Invertebrates inspire first fully 3-D printed active materials for robots, and on the website TechCrunch: The Army is building 3D-printed soft robots.
Professor McAlpine is creating new technologies for next-generation 3D devices that incorporate functional materials and biology. His group uses simulation, computer-aided engineering, data visualization, and image processing software available through MSI for these projects.