AM ResearchRobotics

3D printing enables robotic skin with human-like sensing

Researchers are using B9Creations' B9 Core Series 3D printer to create an adaptive robotic skin that possesses both high sensitivity and wide bandwidth, as well as an enhanced pressure-sensing ability

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Robotic skin with human-like sensing holds immense potential in robotics, prosthetics, and healthcare, and presents a significant opportunity for the advancement of human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, and several other fields. According to B9Creations, researchers are leveraging the company’s 3D printing technology to create an adaptive robotic skin that possesses both high sensitivity and wide bandwidth, as well as an enhanced pressure-sensing ability that goes beyond that of human skin.

This development is intended to create a large-scale adaptive robotic skin that has superior sensing capabilities to human skin. Compared to human skin, its thin-film pressure sensors can sense pressure that is 97% lower than the minimum detectable pressure and 262.5% higher than the maximum detectable pressure.

3D printing enables robotic skin with human-like sensing. Researchers are using B9Creations' B9 Core Series 3D printer.
B9 Core Series 3D printer.

As a result, these pressure sensors can overcome the challenges associated with other methods’ tradeoffs between sensitivity and bandwidth and the previous inability to manufacture highly uniform sensors. This unique sensing capability provides opportunities for augmented sensing in robotics, healthcare, and beyond.

The adaptive robotic skin consists of several components, including a microfluidic thermal actuator, an elastomeric enclosure, and an array of thin-film pressure sensors that have high uniformity between devices, as well as a wide range of sensitivity and bandwidth. The microfluidic thermal actuator was constructed by bonding two layers, one with a fluidic channel and another with a flat surface. The mold for the fluidic layer was created using one of B9Creations’ B9 Core Series 3D printers to achieve the desired channel pattern.

In the past, several studies have been conducted on robotic skin to replicate the flexibility, stretchability, and self-healing abilities of human skin, while also incorporating tactile sensing abilities to detect stimuli such as pressure and temperature. Even though cutting-edge technologies have nearly attained many of the properties and capabilities of human skin, the ability to sense pressure, which is considered one of the primary functions of the skin, still falls short of achieving actual skin-like performance – capable of either high sensitivity or wide bandwidth, but not both simultaneously.

The potential of robotic skin extends well beyond its initial creation – with the power to transform various industries through its diverse range of potential applications, including prosthetics, robotics and automation, wearable technology, healthcare, virtual reality and gaming, human-machine interfaces, and environmental monitoring.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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