A newly developed approach to 3D printing has produced an octopus-inspired robotic device claimed to offer an unprecedented level of agility. Cornell University engineers crafted the soft artificial muscle using commercially available material and say it points to a future of more advanced robotic devices inspired by nature.

While 3D printing has come along in leaps and bounds, the researchers say their device is unmatched when it comes to agile, 3D printed robotics. To attain this super rubbery muscle, the team developed a new method for 3D printing soft actuators called a digital mask projection stereolithgraphy system.

Using commercially available, photopolymerizable elastomeric material, the researchers used their new technique to produce pairs of actuators they say mimic the function of octopus tentacles. The resulting artificial muscle is able to cover a full 180 degrees of motion, with comparable actuation times to living muscle.

"Based on the demonstration reported here and the possibilities for improved materials, this nascent printing process for soft actuators is a promising route to sophisticated, biomimetic systems," the researcher report in their study.

The researchers describe their approach and results in a paper published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

You can see the device wag back and forth in the video below.

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